Category Archives: christology

A Divine Jesus, but no “God the Son”

A case for a weak type of binitarianism can be made from NT christological claims, but no NT text supports the official dogma of Trinitarianism, the central pillar of which is “Jesus is God” claims.

In the NT, Jesus explicitly excludes himself from the Godhead, first by saying in John 17:3, “You [Father] are the only true God, and second by identifying himself with the Son of Man in repeated passages, in which he conducts and executes the judgment of God, and “has the power on earth to forgive sins”.

Binitarianism of a sort involves itself in this Son of Man claim of Jesus – inspired originally from the book of Daniel, conceived as an exalted being who is an archangelic, pre-existent, heavenly figure who lives in the clouds and is gloriously, ceremoniously, presented before God, whom Daniel calls “the Ancient of Days”. Thus we already have a “Second Power in heaven”, who, however, is not ontologically God, but rather God’s primordial representative and agent. Therefore, the initial, monotheistic “Godhead-structure” was that of one God, one “Person” who is God; plus another heavenly figure, – primordial and pre-existent – “divine” but not ontologically God.

In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus identifies himself with the Son of Man at his Sanhedrin trial, telling the high priest Caiaphas that the judges will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds in great glory (Mark 14:62), accompanied with “Power” (the living Presence of God).

By claiming to be the heaven-dwelling primal, angelic Son of Man, the high priest judged that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy – not because he claimed to be God, but because he was claiming to be “the next thing to God” – that is, of being a unique, heavenly “Son” whom God charged with the execution of divine judgment. Of course, this bold statement was what prompted Caiaphas cry “Blasphemy!” and to tear his robe in righteous indignation.

This early monotheistic binitarianism was probably the earliest Jewish Christian christology. The Trinity dogma was a development of the Gentile church which, consciously or not, misunderstood the Son of Man’s relation to God, raised the Son of Man to the status of ontological God, and did the same with the Holy Spirit – thus newly – and grotesquely from a monotheistic point of view – creating a new form of the Godhead. A new form that fractured God’s unity and elevated a primordial Son of God to the status of “God the Son”.

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Worship, Prayer, Angelomorphology, and Jesus’s “Deity”

Trinitarians typically claim that NT (New Testament) references to people “worshiping” Jesus or “giving Jesus worship” prove that the NT thinks that Jesus is God.

However, it appears doubtful that the NT actually depicts people as worshiping Jesus in the Trinitarian/”God” sense.

The Bible uses “worship” not only to designate creatures’ subordination to God, but also uses the term to indicate reverence to kings, officials, prophets and other kinds of holy people. Thus in the Gospels, where it says ” ‘X’ persons worshiped Jesus”, it likely means only that they gave him high reverence, but the Gospels never imply that such people worshiped Jesus as God. Not only did Jesus explicitly exclude himself from the Godhead in John 17:3 (“You, Father, are the only true God“), he also said that he HAD a God, worshiped a God, and ascended to God. But of course God does not have a god, does not worship a god, and cannot ascend to himself.

Not even John’s “DoubtingThomas’s” expression to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” necessitates the notion that Thomas was worshiping Jesus as God.

The story is not about some issue concerning Jesus’s supposed deity. It’s about Thomas not having witnessed the risen Jesus, and his telling the disciples that he won’t believe until he sees with his own eyes. The context, therefore, is not Jesus’s purported deity, but rather about Thomas’s unbelief.

The risen Jesus then appears and grants Thomas permission to probe his execution wounds, after which Thomas declares his faith, not in Jesus as God, but in GOD as Lord. That is, Thomas is rendering worship to the Father by whose will Jesus has been raised up. So the Thomas story is often misunderstood by Trinitarians to be about Jesus’s supposed divinity, whereas it is really about Thomas’s lack of resurrection-faith.

Had Jesus wanted to be worshiped, surely he would have openly encouraged the practice. Yet, in the Gospels, he never does.

And had early Christians worshiped Jesus as God, NT prayer would typically, frequently, be expected to address Jesus as God. But it never does.

NT prayer is only addressed to the Father, “through” or “in” Jesus, or “in Jesus’ name” – but never to Jesus as God. The Maranatha prayer – “Come, Lord” – is addressed to Jesus not as God, but rather as Messianic Lord, and is a hopeful request that he return soon. In Luke-Acts, Stephen’s outcry to Jesus that Jesus accept Stephen into heaven is not a prayer to Jesus as God, but again, simply to Jesus as Messianic Lord. In John’s Gospel Jesus says that the disciples can ask anything in his name and he/and/or the Father will grant it: again, this is a form of petition to God – in Jesus’s name, as the Messianic Son – not to Jesus as as some kind of an ontological “God”. Hence, according to the NT texts, Jesus was never given divine worship, for the simple reason that the first Christians did not regard him as ontological God.

So, to reiterate, it seems that that no one in the NT ever “worshiped” Jesus in a Trinitarian sense. The Bible uses “worship” in describing adulation directed to God, but it also uses the term in describing veneration of heroes, judges, prophets, kings and holy people. Nowhere in the NT is worship directed to Jesus as God, but only to the Father.

And the same principle applies to NT prayer – in the NT, no one prays to Jesus as God . On the contrary, they pray only to the Father, “through Jesus”, “in Jesus”, or “in Jesus’s name”. The “Maranatha prayer” is the disciples’ simple request to Jesus Messiah to return “soon”. In Luke-Acts, Stephen’s prayer that Jesus receive him into heaven is, again, a prayer to the Son of Man standing next to the Father. Etc.

The NT contains no worship of Jesus as God and directs no prayer to Jesus as God. That’s because the NT does not consider Jesus to be God, but rather to be the pre-existent celestial archangel who by his incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection was elevated above all other angels.

If at first it seems strange to view Jesus as an archangel, the NT itself seems to confirm the notion, especially in its portrayal of Jesus’s trial before the Sanhedrin, where he promises his judges that they will see the heavenly “Son of Man”, coming with the clouds in great glory, accompanied by “Power” (the living Presence of God). This pre-existent heavenly figure appears in the book of Daniel, in a heavenly “presentation ceremony”, where the Son of Man approaches the throne of “the Ancient of Days” (God). It is no surprise, therefore, that Caiaphas the Jewish high priest was said to have torn his robe and charged Jesus with blasphemy for claiming to be the cloud-dwelling celestial Son of Man.

Once Jesus’s own pre-existent, celestial Son of Man christology is delineated and clearly viewed, it becomes clear that Christianity had no need of a Trinitarian “Son” – for the simple reason that Jesus, as an “incarnation” of the heavenly Son of Man, already functioned as a divine Son on earth as well as in heaven.

Moreover, the NT also says that Jesus was  given the divine Name and was charged with divine judgment. Which conception also happens to dovetail with the Jewish Bible’s depiction of the pre-existent-heavenly “Great Angel of Israel”, who bore the divine Name and executed divine judgment on the ancient Israelites.

The NT Jesus therefore represents a kind of conflation between the Great Angel and the Son of Man. So, to put the case flippantly, “Who needs a Trinitarian Son when in Jesus we already have God’s chief assisting Angel and the celestial Son of Man?” In these circumstances, a Trinitarian Son seems only to be an arbitrary, unnecessary, redundant and distortive addendum to an original Jewish, monotheistic christology.

Finally, to recap:

In the NT, Jesus was never worshiped or prayed to as God or as the Trinitarian Son. Moreover, in the NT, Jesus claims to be the heavenly Son of Man – the archangelic pre-existent figure who lived in the clouds of heaven, and who also shared certain exalted traits with Israel’s Great Angel.

Therefore, pragmatically speaking, no ontologically divine Trinitarian Son need (or should!) be superimposed on Jesus’s original Jewish-monotheistic claim to be the Son of Man both in heaven and on earth (“So that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” – Mark 2:10).

“Jesus-as-God” christology is most accurately viewed as a foreign, “paganized” Gentile, Greco-Roman category which the “post-Apostolic” Church Councils imposed upon an original Jewish-monotheistic christological assertion.

Jesus: Divine, but not “God”

Jesus’s famous saying, “Before Abraham came to be, I am” is only found in John (8:58), “the maverick Gospel”. Which should be something of a red flag to careful, serious readers.

In any case, Trinitarians misuse the text as “proof” that Jesus was calling himself ontological God. That is doubtful in view even within “high” Johannine christology itself, where John’s Jesus functions merely as “the finger [human being] pointing to the moon [God]”.

John’s Jesus, in John 17:3, explicitly excluded himself from the Godhead: “YOU [Father-God] are THE ONLY TRUE GOD”. Not Apollo, not Zeus. Not Jesus. Only God.

The phrase in itself is amenable to several non-divine interpretations:

1 John’s Jesus as a divine union mystic: “Who sees me sees the Father”, “the Father and I are one”. John’s Jesus also holds the incarnate Logos within himself, as he does the Spirit in the Synoptics. He is not claiming to “be God”, but rather to be seamlessly united to God and to the Logos.

2 As so many divine union mystics have expressed their union with God, so does Jesus – as with (say) the Sufi mystic who, pointing to himself, said, “There is no one in these garments but God”, and who ended up crucified like Jesus, by people who similarly misunderstood the claim. Which is not a claim to be God, but rather to be the “empty vessel” in which God dwells.

3 Many divine union mystics claim to experience a share in God’s consciousness, and in God’s timeless awareness: the “Eternal Now”. All of these people can say “before Abraham came to be, I am”, because, like God, they experience the Eternal Now, a timeless state.

4 In John, Jesus speaks in two voices: A) the Jewish mystic relating his divine union experience, and B) the incarnate Word. Of course, the Logos is “before” Abraham, knows the secret things of God, descends from and ascends back to heaven when He/It returns to the pre-incarnational “glory that I had with the Father before the world was made”.

None of the above requires that we must think that Jesus is speaking in capital letters and usurping the divine “I AM” that belongs to Yahweh alone. He has already excluded himself from the Godhead. He scolds “the Jews” who charge him of making himself “God” by telling them that – because they are not ashamed to call Israel’s ancient judges “gods” – they ought not complain when Jesus makes the much lesser claim of merely being God’s son.

At most, Jesus’s “I am” sayings, statements of divine oneness, and of his Eternal Now experience only represent pre-existence, not Godhead or divinity itself. This is standard Jewish theology, which held the real existence of many pre-existent beings, from the angels to the heavenly Son of Man from the book of Daniel. Jesus himself, at his Sanhedrin trial, precisely claimed to be that pre-existent celestial figure, who is “divine”, but not God eternal.

New Book by Richard Smoley

Longtime scholar of religion Richard Smoley has written a fascinating book about the origins of Western religion titled, How God Became God:

The book follows the historical, historical and ecclesiastical path of religion in the West, and therefore concentrates on Judaism and Christianity. Much attention is given to ancient Israel and the origins of its deity. Or perhaps we should say, “deities”.

As Smoley shows (and here his work dovetails with that of Margaret Barker and the late Alan Segal), in pre-Deuteronomic times, Israel had a binitarian theology. That is, the ultimate God was held to be El Elyon (the Most High), but this topmost father-god had a multitude of “sons”, who were conceptualized as other, lesser gods – or as angelic beings – who constituted El Elyon’s high council. At one point, the Most High appointed each of the world’s nations to an angel, a process by which the Council’s god/angels  became a protector, benefactor, and judge of a particular earthly nation. Surprisingly, this scenario is embedded in the Jewish Bible itself,  in Deuteronomy 32:7-9:

7 “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you. “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the sons of Israel.  9 “For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.… (Bible Hub)

From the inception of this belief, an ancient tradition looked to the “second God” or “Great Angel” of Israel as that nation’s guiding, tutelary, and judging deity, a literal Son of the Most High. He went by several names such as Yahoel, Son of Man, Heavenly Adam (Adam Kadmon), and Metatron, but for religious and historical purposes, his greatest name is Yahweh.

Far from the traditional, commonly received picture of Yahweh being the high God, in the earlier picture, Yahweh was God’s (El Elyon’s) Son, representative, servant, and Israel’s particular “deity”. Of course this means that Judaism, at least in part, contained a conception of “Two Powers in Heaven” – El Elyon and his Son, Yahweh. The situation is even more complex, per Barker, when it is realized that Yahweh the Son had a female consort – possibly a mother figure or simply a spouse. Thus a royal-divine dyad on earth was worshipped in Israel, along with a most high Father. Some of the prophets raged against the divine consort and urged that her symbols be permanently removed from the Temple. And, in any case, the ancient El Elyon-Yahweh dynamic plays a huge role in New Testament christology.

The New Testament Jesus identified himself with a Jewish figure called the Son of Man. In certain texts, he uses it as a circumlocution for “this guy”, i.e., “me, myself”. But in others, he seems to be speaking of the heavenly Son of Man who is enthroned next to the Most High, in which case he would have equally have been speaking of the Angel, Adam Kadmon, or of Yahweh (again, not as topmost deity, but as son of El Elyon). This makes sense of Jesus’ answer to the high priest Caiaphas’ question about his identity, where Jesus says that people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with “Power” (another circumlocution designating God). And it would mean that Jesus’ frequent New Testament references to his own sonship in relation to God could in reality represent the ancient view of Yahweh’s son-like relationship to El Elyon.

This christology would mean that the New Testament Jesus is actually saying that he is not the high God, the Most High, but rather that he is the son of the Most High,  Israel’s Great Angel. This in turn might explain why the earliest Jewish-Christian sects held that Jesus – unlike his later Trinitarian counterpart – is a divine Son, but of course cannot not be the Father-Creator-Most High. And this notion is supported in Patristic reports of several early Jewish “Christ cults” which claimed that Jesus had been a righteous man in whom the heavenly Messiah-Christ, the heavenly Adam (Adam Kadmon) “incarnated”.

The El Elyon/heavenly Father-to-Jesus/Yahweh/the Son relationship is only one of many refreshing and informative points of interest in Smoley’s book, which I strongly recommend for anyone interested in religion, religious history, and christology.

 

 

A Great New Book

Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church, by Keith Akers. Apocryphile Press, Berkeely, 2013.

Keith Akers takes us back to the origins of Christianity in a new way. Disciples delineates in an unprecedented manner the history of the Ebionites – “the Poor” – Jesus’ first Jewish disciples.

The Ebionites represent a religious movement that had its origins in ancient Judaism, a movement that was opposed to animal sacrifice and the temple, and which supported vegetarianism, simple living, compassion, and the cultivation of spiritual wisdom (“knowledge”). This is not some oddball New Age notion. It’s expressed in the Hebrew Bible and by some of the Prophets. Historical Judaism is so associated with the temple and priesthood in the public mind that at first it is hard to accept the idea of an anti-temple form of Judaism. But there it is: in the Hebrew Bible, in the New Testament, and in Ebionite sources … and in Jesus’ ridding the temple of buyers and sellers of sacrificial animals.

Christologically, the Ebionites regarded Jesus not as the founder of Christianity, but rather as the manifestation of the True Prophet, who was sent to elucidate the eternal Ebionite principles for his own generation. As such, in Jesus, the true prophet was seen as a gift from heaven. Similarly, some Ebionites also acknowledged another such gift: the incarnation of a heavenly Christ who came upon Jesus much like the Spirit came upon him in the Gospels. The True Prophet and heavenly Christ incarnated in Jesus; but these immortal figures also incarnated in other people in other eras, as the divine will ordained. Jesus was  the most successful, authentic exemplar (but not the only one) of the ancient movement, for which the Ebionites revered him. The book is filled with such exotic information, from christology to “Saint” Paul’s objections to Ebionite dietary concerns. But let’s hear what Keith Akers himself has to say.

Understanding “Jewish Christianity” has been a special project of mine for over 30 years. It became clear to me that the history of these early Christians was not just a vegetarian fantasy. Schoeps himself was neither a Christian nor a vegetarian, but an objective historian of religion with no axe to grind.  Other nonvegetarian scholars, such as Walter Wink, also saw the truth of the vegetarianism in early Jewish Christianity (The Lost Religion of Jesus, p. xi).

I have been continually astounded that — with a few exceptions — modern Christians and modern scholars know virtually nothing of Jewish Christianity. Those who are at least aware that it exists typically dismiss Jewish Christianity with statements like “some of Jesus’ followers didn’t understand that Jesus was to liberate us from the confines of Jewish rituals.” This blindness of Christians to their own history is the deeper lesson which the history of Jewish Christianity holds for us today.

Why should people so casually dismiss the idea that the Prince of Peace might make compassion for animals a key part of his program? This idea of compassion is hardly foreign to the history of religion. Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism take the idea of vegetarianism seriously. No orthodox Hindu will eat beef, and Buddhists honor as their very first precept “not to take the life of any sentient creature.” In the modern era, even atheists and humanists like Peter Singer understand the vital importance of compassion to animals. Do these people understand something that Jesus didn’t?

Even in the West this philosophy of compassion had a strong presence at the time of Jesus. Pythagoras, who coined the term “philosophy,” was a vegetarian, as well as his follower Plato and at least some sects of the neo-Pythagorean Essenes. The Jewish tradition held that God created the world vegetarian (Genesis 1:29) and would one day return the world to that state from which it had fallen (Hosea 2:18, Isaiah 11:6-9). A vegetarian Jesus would hardly be introducing a completely new idea out of the clear blue sky, and there are even hints of these ideas in the gospels, where Jesus declares sympathy for the “least of these,” and says that God will not forget even a single sparrow.

[url]http://www.compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2013/12/14/disciples-is-published/[/url]

I simply cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Akers’s incisive mind and scholarly data sharpen our picture of “the first church” and disentangle the twisted knots of history, rumor, and speculation that surround this complex subject.

The book is available here:

[url]http://www.amazon.com/Disciples-Jewish-Christianity-Shaped-Shattered/dp/1937002500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389226152&sr=8-1&keywords=akers+disciples[/url]

For volumes of more information, please visit Keith Akers’s excellent website, Compassionate Spirit, at:

[url]www.compassionatespirit.com/[/url]

 

Another Trinitarian Problem

Trinitarianism holds that Jesus Christ is composed of one divine Person (the Son or Second Person of the Trinity), who possesses two Natures (human and divine). Yet a glaring problem arises when the New Testament says that Jesus prayed to God.

First, and most obviously, since God is omniscient and omnipotent, it is logically inconsistent to picture God praying to himself, or having a need to pray to himself. The plain meaning of Jesus’ praying to God is simply that Jesus is not, and cannot be, God.

Second, Trinitarianism attempts to circumvent this issue by saying that Jesus was only praying “in, or from, his human Nature”. However, this immediately creates a new problem, one that violates the pre-established condition that Jesus is only one Person.

As with dancing the tango, prayer requires (at least) two persons to engage in the activity.

Now, if Jesus is only one Person – the divine Trinitarian Son – then as God he cannot be praying to God the Father, for the simple reason that both Persons are already God and have no need to pray to one another. This would be a case of one “God-part” praying to a separate but equal “God-part”. So an ontologically divine Jesus praying to the heavenly Father is no different from “Jesus-God” praying to himself. The aforementioned logical inconsistency triumphs here and defeats the Trinitarian claim.

Recalling that Jesus is only one Person, we can only think of him praying to God as a human, not a divine, Person. Of course, Trinitarianism will not permit us to do so, because Jesus has a human Nature, but he is not a human Person. He is God – a divine Person. So Trinitarianism does not allow us the naturalistic and plausible picture of Jesus (say) as a devout Jewish mystic praying to, and being spiritually “one” with God or God’s Spirit. No: Trinitarianism insists that a divine Person is praying to another divine Person.

At this point, a third conundrum implicitly arises:

Trinitarianism claims that God incarnated in Jesus. But Trinitarianism is clear that neither God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit was the Person who explicitly and particularly incarnated. The divine Person who incarnated in the human being called Jesus is held to have been precisely the Trinitarian, ontological Second Person, the eternal “Son”. This immediately opens a new question, namely:

Why is it, if it was the Trinitarian Son who incarnated, that Jesus prays only to the First Person (Father) or the Third Person (Holy Spirit)?  That is, if Jesus is “praying to God from/in his human Nature”, then why is not his human Nature praying to the single one closest manifestation of the incarnating God nearest to hand – namely the Trinitarian Son?

Jesus’ human nature – his “flesh” – is supposedly the vessel for the incarnating Trinitarian Son, yet Jesus never once prays to – nor does he ever mention the existence of – this divine being Who is (purportedly) so utterly entangled with Jesus’ own “flesh”. The biblical Jesus prays to his heavenly Father and on occasion to the Holy Spirit. But he never acknowledges the Trinitarian Son who is, we are invited to believe, God’s specific incarnation within him. The plainest solution to this quandary is that there is no biblical Trinitarian Son, and that the biblical, if not the historical, Jesus was a divine union mystic in the stream of Jewish mysticism, “one with” God the Father, and conversant with the Spirit of Yahweh who was said to have descended upon and dwelled within him.

This simple scenario explains Jesus’ “I am” statements as well as his sense of mission, his cures, exorcisms, claims to know the secret things of God, his sense of sharing in God’s timelessness (“before Abraham, I am”), his oneness with God (“the Father and I are one; who sees me sees the Father”, his “authority to forgive sins” (as God’s adopted “son” and messianic agent), as well as a host of esoteric Jewish-sectarian items which seem possible, even plausible – granted Jewish monotheism and Second Temple mysticism – without needing to inflate and pseudo-sacralize them with the hot air of Trinitarian claims.

 

A Non-Trinitarian Jesus 1

This is the first of some brief comments aimed at refuting the traditional but erroneous notion that “Jesus is God”. Nothing complex or daunting at first, just some thoughts “off the top of my head”.

By definition, the Christian God is said to be both omniscient and omnipotent. In the NT (New Testament), Jesus constantly prays to God. If Jesus were God, these prayer-instances would convey an utterly incoherent picture, namely “God-Jesus” praying to God. But God cannot pray to God. Thus, because Jesus prays, he himself can’t be God.

The NT Jesus himself gives no support to the notion that he is God. For example, in John’s Gospel – the Gospel said to contain the highest christology of all NT works – Jesus says things like, “I am a man who heard God’s word, and I obey it”; “I cannot do anything on my own, only as my Father commands me”; “the Father is greater than I”; “I ascend to your God and my God”, etc. From these passages it is clear that, far from being God, Jesus has a God, to whom he prays, and whom he obeys.

Moreover, still in John’s Gospel, Jesus identifies himself as God’s messianic agent-emissary, or shaliah. In ancient times, and in ancient Judaism in particular, the agent and the principle were associated so closely that they were seen to share a legal identity. What the agent does for the principle is equivalent to the principle himself acting. What is done to the agent is equivalent to doing it to the principle. Hence, when Jesus says things in John such as “Who sees me sees the Father”, “the Father and I are one”, etc., he is illustrating his closeness to God as the shaliah. He is not making a claim to be the God whom he represents. John’s Jesus does exercise a divine authority, but only as God’s agent, not as some Trinitarian “son”.

The same factor is operative in the Synoptic Gospels, where, for instance, Jesus as the messianic “Son of Man” forgives sins. The typical Trinitarian explanation is that no one but God can forgive sins, so because he forgives sins, Jesus must be God. This is misphrased, because NT christology actually connotes it slightly, but importantly, differently: “In forgiving sins, Jesus is acting like God.”

That is, Jesus as shaliah is doing what God has deputized him to do: to forgive sins “on earth”. So the question, “Who can forgive sin but God alone?” has its answer from Jesus’ own ministry: “God forgives sins, and so does His special agent, whom He has ordained to forgive sin”. When the NT Jesus forgives sin, he is doing it by virtue of the power that God invested in him. The situation is much the same in those Gospel texts where Jesus empowers his disciples to forgive sins – a gift which, for all its power, did not turn Jesus’ disciples into God. As the Father deputized Jesus to forgive sins, so Jesus passed this ministry along to his disciples -without Jesus or the disciples being God.

One biblical unitarian, Anthony Buzzard, entitled one of his books, The Doctrin of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound. Although I disagree with much of Buzzard’s fundamentalistic interpretations, I believe that his christology is healthy and based on the monotheistic Jewish foundations of the NT. The Trinitarian “wound” fractured Yahweh’s unity and elevated his prophet Jesus to the status of “God”, thus alienating Jews, Moslems, and people of common sense throughout history. If this wound could be healed, we might see a great moving-together and new solidarity among the Abrahamic faiths. However, the task is daunting, since mainline churches teach Trinitarianism from birth, and insist upon catechizing converts into Trinitarianism. They say if one does not accept the Trinity/accept Jesus as God, then one is a heretic who has no hope of truly understanding Jesus, God’s nature … and has no hope of salvation. That is: Accept the Trinity – or else.

Since I am a Buddhist, this may not seem to be “my fight”. But it very much is my fight, because if Jesus was a human being who went through a spiritual transformation, then he is aligned with the many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in my Mahayanist tradition – mortal human beings who at some point realized their true spiritual identities. But if Jesus is eternally, ontologically “God”, then his mission and life become little more than E.T and his Adventure on Earth. Jesus moves from being a mortal human with human struggles to an “eternal Son” who briefly incarnates in a human body.

Thus, I believe that the highest teachings, mystical claims and ethics that the NT reports of Jesus are far too humanistically important to dismiss as mere Olympian proclamations of an “incarnate God”. My own bias favors the view of Jesus as a Jewish mystic in the stream of Jewish mysticism, who attained spiritual knowledge, rather than as a God laying down commandments through a temporary puppeteering of a human body. And I think the NT evidence supports this view, as does the extra-biblical evidence which has been pieced together over many decades.  More on this subject will appear in later posts.