Why was Jesus killed?

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(RNS) A stained glass window at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu, Hawaii, depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

(RNS) A stained glass window at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu, Hawaii, depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

(RNS) A stained glass window at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu, Hawaii, depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

(RNS) A stained glass window at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu, Hawaii, depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

Jesus on the Cross. The central image in Christian worship and art. The heartbeat of Christian piety for millions of devout believers. As Good Friday approaches, some two billion Christians around the world will again come together around Jesus, on the Cross.

But why, exactly, did Jesus die? Or, more provocatively: Why was Jesus killed? Might different answers to that question reflect different understandings of Christian theology and lead to different implications for Christian living?

If you ask the average Christian, probably most will say that Jesus died on the Cross “for our sins.”  What does that mean? How many Christians could offer a coherent follow up sentence to that claim?

I don’t think there is a single answer to the question of why Jesus died. I do believe that considering various answers is a worthy exercise.

So here are four partial answers I would like to offer to the question of why Jesus was killed, why he died on the Cross on “Good Friday.” Three might surprise you.

(1) Jesus was killed because the Roman governor in Jerusalem considered him some kind of threat.

Crucifixion was a grotesque and horrifying punishment, mainly intended to suppress any thought of rebellion by subject peoples against the Roman Empire. Rome maintained a monopoly on capital punishment where it ruled, and Rome’s representative was the only one who could crucify Jesus. Thinking about Jesus as someone who could be perceived as a threat to Rome changes the way we read the stories about him and how we hear his teachings. If Jesus was so meek and mild, so harmless and otherworldly, why would he be nailed to a Cross?

(2) Jesus was killed because certain local religious and political leaders considered him some kind of threat.

This uncomfortable claim cannot be avoided from a straightforward reading of the Passion Narratives of the Gospels. Indeed, long before he entered Jerusalem, Jesus had been clashing with, variously, Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and Temple officials. According to the Gospel accounts, they decided that he was unbearable and must be destroyed.

Exactly why he was unbearable to them can be read in various ways. Perhaps it was his criticisms of them, his challenges to their way of construing fidelity to God and Torah, with Jesus emphasizing mercy and justice, especially for those on the margins, and his adversaries viewing him as teaching disobedience to Torah. But some texts emphasize leaders’ worry over Jesus’ hold on the crowds, with the associated fear that his movement would bring down the wrath of Rome in a great cataclysm.

All of this is complicated by legitimate scholarly concerns that the Gospel writers had an agenda of highlighting Jewish-leadership responsibility rather than Roman responsibility for Jesus’ death, and that this colors the accounts offered in the Gospels. Certainly for many centuries horrific Christian anti-Semitism was fed by blaming “the Jews” for Jesus’ death, a fact which must inform how these texts are interpreted today.

(3) Jesus was killed because he was betrayed by a friend.

The Gospels suggest that for several days in the last week of his life, Jesus essentially took control of the Temple, the center of Jewish life and worship. He offered provocative teachings, with huge crowds hanging on his every word. It was impossible to arrest him because of the fear of a riot or rebellion. But for some very mysterious reason Jesus’ close disciple Judas gave his enemies the location of where Jesus could be found at night, away from the protection of the crowds. There Jesus was arrested; by the next afternoon he was dead.

Why did Judas betray Jesus? Was it because he had grown disillusioned with Jesus? Was he hoping to incite a Messianic political rebellion by triggering a confrontation between Jesus and the authorities? Was he in it for the money? No one knows. But it is important to remember that Jesus died in part because a friend betrayed him. That has always been an aspect of the profound pathos of this story. Jesus only had Twelve. One of them betrayed him to death.

(4) Jesus was killed, but his death brought the salvation of the world.

Churches feature crosses, of course, because Christians believe that this death was not just another political-religious murder, but instead the event that saves the world. There are at least a half-dozen major theories as to how exactly Jesus’ death accomplished this salvation. The most commonly held is the idea that Jesus was the innocent sacrificial victim who carried on his suffering shoulders the sins of the world, making forgiveness possible for all who believe — this is the New Covenant Jesus spoke about at the Last Supper.

I see (and feel) different things when I look at a Cross. Sometimes I see my own sins in stark relief. Sometimes I see the price of standing up for justice. Sometimes I think about how many innocent people have been murdered by mobs and governments. Sometimes I see God’s heartbreak over this rebellious world. Sometimes I think this is exactly what a world like this would do to the best person who ever walked the earth.

But then there is Resurrection Sunday. When I can get there, truly get there, what I see when I look at the Cross is but one terrible act in a play of many acts. If the Resurrection is true, in the end God wins, love wins, and life wins. In the end. But we are not yet at the end, and so we see that victory of God and love and life only in glimpses.

  • Ben in oakland

    Why indeed was Jesus killed? wHy the whole cosmic melodrama: the fall, the repopulation of the earth with sinful people, the sacrifice where a simple decree would have ended the problem?

    It just doesn’t make any sense!

    What does make sense is that Jesus, scion of two lines, priestly and kingly, descended from David, was the priest king messiah that Israel had been waiting for. Except he wasn’t. But a whole passel of Virgin-birth-crucified-died-for-sins legends, so common throughout the world and usually attached to solar myths, God attached to the son/sun.

    That probably makes too much sense,

  • shawnie5

    “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem [Artaxerxes, 444 BC according to Encyclopedia Brittanica] unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks…And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” Dan.9:25-26

    Why was Jesus killed? Not for Himself. So for whom?

  • G Key

    2 excerpts from David Gushee’s excellent article make me wish that he would consider writing a similar article on another basic question concerning both Jesus and Christianity:

    1.) “… [Jesus made] forgiveness possible for all who believe …”

    2.) “… Jesus emphasiz[ed] mercy and justice, especially for those on the margins …”

    The former is cited by many Christians to assert faith’s preeminence.
    The latter is cited by many Christiansto assert mercy’s preeminence.

    I’d like to read Mr. Gushee’s similarly-referenced observations on the following question that is fundamental to “Christian piety for millions of devout believers”: Which is more important, faith or mercy?

  • G Key

    In my above comment, “similarly-referenced” should read “similarly studied” (in that it’s obvious Mr. Gushee has studied at length the question of “Why was Jesus killed?”).

  • Susan

    What do I see when I see a statue or portrait of Jesus? I see a Jew who is being murdered by Christians for being a Jew. Jesus represents all the Jews who were persecuted by Greeks, Romans or Christians for being a Jew.

  • John

    A genuine faith in Jesus must necessarily compel us to a life where mercy or compassion is the preeminent quality governing our perception of and relationships with our neighbors. It is not either/or but both/and, faith and compassion are as inseparable as a chicken and the egg from which it hatches.

  • John

    I am not satisfied with the explanations. God is too awesome and too just to demand a ritualized and symbolic death of an innocent to accomplish God’s purposes. That Jesus died on a cross I don’t deny; that Jesus was prepared to endure this death seems undeniable. And finally I agree that Divine purpose was accomplished through Jesus death and resurrection.

    But it was not mere symbolism, and not part of some ritual of Divine absolution.

    I suspect it was a necessary event in the relationship between God and God’s creation, something God was determined to endure and something humanity needed to witness. It speaks to me of the brutal depths of the human heart, the soaring heights of forgiveness and the nurturing hope of life after death.

    We are all capable of brutal acts of injustice. We need to be reminded of this and stop pointing fingers. And forgiveness is the divinely ordained response to the injuries we will suffer. There is always hope for redemption and…

  • Thomas Ryscavage

    I suspect that the author was unaware that the person to die was US. That is why Jesus came to earth. Romans vs. Pharisees vs. Apostles have nothing to do with this entire occurrence. God: ‘My people, my people why have you forsaken me?’ The time had arrived because of our sins to face extinction. Jesus asked to look one more time and at the moment of his death: ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’

  • Jack

    Hello Shawnie. That, of course, is one of the more remarkable prophecies in a Bible where there are quite a lot of them.

  • Jack

    So Ben, essentially your argument is that if any belief or hypothesis about anything sounds peculiar, it must be written off.

    We should all be grateful that scientists never felt that way….otherwise, there would have been little or no progress in the scientific realm over the centuries.

  • Jack

    John, thanks for your post. Good one indeed.

  • Jack

    Interesting and thoughtful post, Susan. This needs to be said and then said again.

  • Jack

    David, good article. As you can see, you’ve gotten some very good responses to it. You’ve made people think.

  • ben in oakland

    No, that’s what you are saying. Not I.

  • Jack

    Someone should write a book on the politics swirling around the arrest, trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

    What we know about the main players — Pilate and Caiaphas, as well as the emperor’s court in Rome — ends up validating what is a seemingly peculiar story as told in the four Gospels.

    Once we know the politics, the story makes sense.

    The gospel writers were aware of the politics behind the odd dance between Pilate and Caiaphas. What they might not have been aware of was the politics going on at the same time in Rome, which probably explains Pilate’s bizarre behavior toward Jesus — ie first acquitting him of the Roman crime of treason and then crucifying him for same.

    To make a long story short, Pilate was both an incompetent and a brutal governor who had a “godfather” watching his back in Rome — the emperor’s second-in-command. Possibly right before Jesus’ trial, Rome executed his “godfather” for trying to kill the emperor.

  • Jack

    Okay, fair enough…..I’ll reread what you wrote.

  • Jack

    Okay, I reread what you wrote, Ben.

    Your first two paragraphs seem to fit with what I’ve said, no? The Biblical story is peculiar, counterintuitive — and hence to be discarded? But reality is often that way. Think of what we know scientifically that we couldn’t have guessed.

    As for Jesus, the virgin birth stories saturating the pagan world have the quality of myths — ie “in days of old, Zeus did X which led to Y” — while the Gospel story reads like history — “during the X year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, there was a census, which led Y to go back to his hometown Z….in the province of Judea.” Given time/place specificity, the latter is potentially verifiable or falsifiable, unlike pure myth.

    If true, the Gospels can be seen as “myth come true” as Lewis and Tolkien said – in other words, prophetic. And then there’s that curious chapter in the Bible — Isaiah 53 — and others, too.

  • ben in oakland

    Jack,you buy the supernatural aspects f the Jesus story, but I don’t. For you, it is either madman or king. For me, it is madman, king, business model, legend, historical confusion and amalgamation of several characters, notably Jesus, bar Abbas, Judas the Galilean, and Mithra.

    That’s the difference between us.

    You call other similar stories, which happened in the long ago, myths, but believe your story to be history, because it happened in historical times, ignoring the mythological elements. I have yet to hear a credible explanation why, after the choirs of angels calling Baby Jesus “God with US”, no one– not Jesus himself, Mary, joseph, not ANYONE, had the slightest recollection of it. To claim they all knew it when he entered Jerusalem, but forgot it a few days later, just strains credibility.

    Strip away the mythology, however, and the story makes sense historically. The virgin birth, died-for-your-sins stories are nearly universal, not Christian.

  • Jack

    Yes, Ben, I buy the Jesus story, including the miracles, but only after much thought and study.

    There are 4 possibilities about Jesus’ claims (1) he said them, they’re false, and he knew it — he was a liar (2) he said them, they’re false and he didn’t know it — he was a lunatic, given the nature of the claims (3) he said them, and they’re true, meaning he is who he said he was…..Lord (4) he never said them….the Gospels are wrong.

    #s 1 and 2 are lame.. #1 – he voluntarily died for his belief about himself. #2 — the kind of person convinced he’s equal to the Maker of the Universe should be shot through with lunacy…no sermon on the mount from such a person, only an island or two of brilliance surrounded by an immense sea of insanity. #4 doesn’t work because we can apply #s 1 through 3 to the Gospel writers….and only #3 fits. RNS won’t give me space to elaborate but I’d be glad to in a next post.

    So we’re left with #3.

  • Jack

    As for myth vs. history, Ben, you read my post too fast, as I did to yours.

    The different between a myth and a historical claim is that the former is incapable of verification or falsification, since it does not contact real specificity as to time and place, while the latter, by pinning itself down to time and place, is inviting us to do some historical and textual investigation, making it at least theoretically possible to verify or falsify the claim.

    The Gospel writers, by placing their story and claims within very specific times and places, do not belong in the realm of myth, but in the realm of history…..meaning they are either true or they are outright frauds. In contrast a myth is neither historical nor fraudulent — it’s a story that usually is a reflection on human or divine nature or the nature of the world.

  • Jack

    Correction — Second sentence should read “contain” real specificity, not “contact” real specificity. Sorry for the confusing typo.

  • Jack

    You missed the point, Tom, because you are taking Susan’s post literalistically when she obviously meant it otherwise.

    Funny, Tom, how you interpret clear and literal verses of the Bible allegorically, but when a person is posting in a way that is obviously not literal, you take it literally.

    The connecting thread in your case is your hatred of Jews and Israel.

    Put a different way, hard hearts beget soft heads.

  • Jack

    Well, Tom, as for Jews, it’s pretty darned hard for them to see that Jesus is Lord when people like you use Jesus and the Gospels to hate and defame them. And when folks like you have been at it for the better part of 20 centuries, I suspect it must be exceptionally hard.

    And then there is the whole issue of the dejudaizing of the Gospels, in which the post-apostolic church effectively ripped Romans 11 out of the Scriptures and stripped the Gospel of its Hebraic foundation, causing all sorts of subsequent mischief in the ensuing centuries and millennia.

    So…given the circumstances, I would actually be amazed if Jews did not reject the Gospel.

    But God sees everything. He knows the heart of every person….not just what they believe or don’t believe…..but why.

    Salvation isn’t just getting the right answer on a multiple choice test…..Doctrine is the road map but it’s the heart that says yea or nay.

  • ben in oakland

    You’re begging the question.

    There are more than four possibilities: madman, king, business model, legend, historical confusion and amalgamation of several characters, notably Jesus, bar Abbas, Judas the Galilean, and Mithra.

    It may be theoretically possible to verify the claims, but outside of the gospels, no one ever heard of jesus. The choirs of angels, the wise men, the whole Immanuel thing have no independent verification. You would think that someone, anyone, would remember the birth of the boy heralded as GOD WITH US, attended by choirs of angels. But no one did. Even the Synoptics are just “looking in the same direction.”

    To claim the gospels all agree with each other when they clearly don’t, both historically or theologically, is simply to claim that they aren’t history.

    I refer you to “The English Life of Jesus”, by Thomas scott, where all of this is discussed at length. It’s beyond my capabilities to remember it all.

  • ben in oakland

    He also thinks Mormons are heretics. A charmer all the way around.

  • ben in oakland

    If I believed in god, jack, I would agree with you 100%.

    But I still agree with you.

  • Jack

    Ben, when a source makes a claim about what a person said about himself, either (1) the source is correct but the person was wrong about himself and knows it, (2) the source is correct but the person was wrong about himself and doesn’t know it (3) the source is correct and the person is right about himself, or (4) the source is incorrect.

    Ben, you can spend a thousand lifetimes seeking additional possibilities, but anything you come up with will fit one of the four mentioned above.

    As for corroboration, a document is refuted not by the absence of corroboration but by the presence of material contradiction — either within itself or outside of it. And since the people who wrote ancient texts obviously aren’t here to explain themselves, a competent historian strives diligently to come up with reconciliations to apparent contradictions before concluding that a contradiction is real. Honest, serious scholars don’t play “gotcha” games with texts.

  • Jack

    If we met face to face, Ben, my hunch is that we would have long and mutually respectful conversations on the big issues of life including God. I suspect I’d learn a lot and I trust you would, too. We disagree on much, but I’m glad to see you posting.

  • Jack

    Well, from a biblical perspective, Mormonism is a heresy, ie a radical departure from what Scripture teaches, especially on the nature of both God and humanity.

    However, Mormons often put my fellow evangelicals to shame in terms of the lives they live. They take care of their bodies and souls better, they eat better, they have a stronger sense of community and care for each other, they don’t get divorced or cheat on each other as much as other groups do, they don’t vote for Trump (!) — they are, as a group, head and shoulders above most.

    And since my God is not an idiot, He notices that.

    Welcome to a world of paradox — lots of it.

  • Susan

    Thank you Jack. You understood what I wanted to say. I know that the Romans were pagans during Jesus’s lifetime. The Romans and the Greeks persecuted Jews for their own reasons.

    Strange how you always say that the Jews are whiners. They have a lot to “whine about.” Most of it coming from Christians. Maybe that’s why you have such a problem with Jews.

  • Ben in oakland

    Keep up with the antisemitism remarks. It makes for lots of converts.

  • Ben in oakland

    Thanks. Respect is ways a two way street.

  • Diogenes

    I nominate David Gushee for the rank of Captain Obvious.

  • I think the non-mysterious version is that Jesus died for our sins in the sense of providing an example of the perfect faith that can help us all to shake off whatever worldly cravings distract us from the conviction that our only real course in life is try to always do the right thing just because it is the right thing. Accepting a nasty death, despite having the uncertainties that led him to exclaim “why have you forsaken me?”, solely because he believed that he was doing the right thing and could not do otherwise, is the ultimate example. One may believe a number of other things on top of that, but for me that is reason enough.

  • Susan

    Well, Jews were rarely in power. Mostly they lived in the Diaspora. It was still an example of people who were in power who wanted Jews to worship the way they did and not how Jews wanted to worship. The Hellenistic Jews were not in power. The Hellenistic pagans were in power. I don’t deny that pagans persecuted Jews too.

  • Everett

    It is not so much as why was Jesus killed, but rather why did Jesus have to die in the first place? The answer is woven throughout the whole tapestry of the Bible in the story of man’s continued rejection of God, his and fall and God’s covenant that was made for the purpose of redeeming His people. It is the summation that Jesus died for the sins of those who would believe, but the entirety of the story goes back to the beginning in the garden.

  • I’m sorry, but this can’t be right. He was killed, but he died purposely and it was his choice. If he was outright “killed” for our sins then that would make him a martyr and that’s clearly not the purpose.

    See the verse below where he clearly states in his own words (that are written in red) that it’s his choice to lay down his life and no man can take his life away.

    John 10:17-18 ESV

    17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

    18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

  • Susan

    Well, you’re good at changing the subject. There is no archeological evidence that ever happened. Jews don’t read the Hebrew Bible literally. There are midrash, commentaries and the Talmud. Yes, the rabbis had problems with what the Bible said and they questioned and debated everything in the Bible. You’ve never read any of it.

    You ignore the Gospels which are hateful and inspired centuries of antisemitism.

  • Susan

    Everett, Jews don’t believe in Original Sin. For Jews Jesus’s death does not go back to beginning in the Garden.

  • Garson Abuita

    Jack maybe you can elaborate more on what you mean, but the objective evidence about Pilate does show him to be brutal and ruthless toward the Jewish population. Philo (died 50 CE) describes him as vindictive and with a harsh temper. The Gospels’ portrayal of him as a kindly regent whose hands were tied by the “Crucify Him!” Jewish crowd is inconsistent with history. That’s why it’s bizarre.

  • Garson Abuita

    Tom, we’re not miserable, we’re survivors. To exist after 2,000+ years of people like you, we have to be. That’s why we fight back when we see some of what you write.

  • Garson Abuita

    Reason #2’s biggest historical problem is that if the Jews considered Jesus such a threat and such a heretic, why didn’t they just stone him? John 7-8 famously mentions that they wanted to stone a woman who had committed adultery. Crucifixion was a Roman method and its use should be laid at their hands. I appreciate your sensitivity to the problems that the claims of deicide have raised through the centuries.

  • Everett

    Susan, that is probably true, hence why they thought that they themselves could attain righteousness in the sight of God by strict adherence to the law. However the problem of original sin does indeed go back to the garden. Paul speaks of two Adams one through whom sin entered the world and Jesus the last Adam who becomes for us a life giving spirit.

  • ben in oakland

    Tom. Tom. Tom.

    Jews slaughtered the canaanites because god told them to do it. Of course.

    Christians burned hundreds of thousands of women as witches because god told them to do it. They also tortured heretics, slaughtered Jews, murdered each other, murdered Muslims because god told them to do it. Of course.

    Muslims fly airplanes into buildings and murder other muslims of the wrong denomination because god told them to do it. Of course.

    Christians currently attack gay people with the same jollity that they used to attack non-existent witches and other Christians because god told them to do it. Of course.

    The take away is the people use god to justify what cannot be justified by any other means.

    of Course!

  • Susan

    The King James version of the Bible is beautiful poetry, but it is not a good translation. It translates “a young woman of marriageable age” and translates it as “virgin.”No Jesus was not the Jews last chance. Jesus was not the Messiah. Why do people think that insulting Jews will make them convert?

  • Susan

    “They thought that they themselves could attain righteousness in the sight of God by strict adherence to the law.”

    That is an untrue stereotype of Judaism. One could always break the Sabbath to save someone’s life or health. There are many places in the Hebrew Bible that disagree with your statement, especially in the Prophets. One finds righteousness by putting God in your heart and by the way one treats their fellow human beings.

  • Jack

    Garson, reread the final sentence of my post above:

    “To make a long story short, Pilate was both an incompetent and a brutal governor……”

    So I agree that Pilate was brutal. I said so. And it was not an afterthought.

    It’s a major point in my post.

    Pilate was brutal. How does that translate into “Pilate was not brutal?”

    I don’t get it.

    Before I go on to answer your implied question, at least let’s get that fact straight:

    We both agree totally that Pilate was brutal. According to either Philo or Josephus or both, he crucified thousands of Jews.

    Just to be clear, Pilate was brutal.

    And by the way, Pilate was brutal.

    Furthermore, Pilate was brutal.

    In every respect, Pilate was brutal.

    In the worst possible way, Pilate was brutal.

    So we agree.

  • Everett

    Susan, Where did I say that a Jew could not break the sabbath to save a life? However, God’s justice requires absolute obedience in order to be judged righteous. The Pharisees knew this and Jesus commended them in an offhanded way when he said that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to be justified by God. Secondly, one doesn’t put God into their heart, It is God who calls, God who has mercy, and God who chooses who’s heart He will indwell.

  • Jack

    How do the Gospels portray Pilate? In Luke 13, Jesus refers to his murdering Galileans. One word: brutal.

    During Jesus’ trial, Pilate was perplexed. He often crucified warrior Messiahs whom Caiaphas, the corrupt pro-Roman priest and fellow Roman appointee, handed him. But Jesus was a teacher, not a fighter. So Pilate wondered why Caiaphas wanted him crucified. Jesus posed no threat to his soldiers or to Pilate’s power.

    In contrast Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to his power, so he convinced Pilate to crucify him. How? Look at the politics in Rome. The emperor’s court hated Pilate, but he knew the emperor’s second–in-command. But sometime before Christ’s trial, Rome executed that friend for trying to kill the emperor.

    So Caiaphas had Pilate over a barrel. Both had channels to Rome and Pilate feared Caiaphas would use his to get Pilate in trouble with a court that already hated him. And with his “godfather” dead, Pilate decided to kill Jesus to keep his…

  • Jack

    job as governor. Ironically, Rome finally fired him a couple of years later.

  • Jack

    Tom, you hate Jews, which probably means you hate God deep down, but that’s a whole other issue. Read Revelation 12 to see who you’re in league with.

  • Jack

    Thanks Susan, but please be clear that Tom’s making the whiner accusation and not I.

  • Jack

    Funny how you roaring anti-Semites on the extreme right sound like guitar-strumming leftists when you accuse Jews of being warlord imperialists. It’s the ultimate “what’s-wrong-with-this-picture” moment — like watching a Sumo wrestler skipping around in a ballerina dress.

    As for your trashing the Festival of Lights, before you stick your foot farther into your mouth, consider John 10:22. It was a Temple holiday by that time, and there is every indication that Jesus treated it seriously.

  • Jack

    So Tom, it sounds like you’re trashing not just the Jews but the Bible, too.

    Why am I not surprised?

  • Jack

    Jesus loves Susan, but if Tom does, he has a peculiar way of showing it. Or perhaps Jesus and Tom have radically different definitions of the word, “love.”

    Jesus died on the cross for Susan and for every other human being who has ever lived. (No, I’m not five-pointer) Tom’s attitude removes Jesus from the cross and puts the Jews on it.

  • Susan

    Tom, if Jesus really loved me, he would save me whether I believed in him or not. That would be a very conditional kind of love. That’s not how a mother loves a child. The purpose of my spiritual life is not to get into heaven. It is about living right here and right now on earth.

    Everett, I don’t agree with anything you just said. God knows that Jews are human beings and are not perfect. God would never require absolute obedience, because God knows that is not possible. God does not expect that from any human being. God just expects us to continually try. The Gospels distort who and what the Pharisees were. Their depiction is completely inaccurate.

  • Jack

    Susan, the Gospels aren’t “hateful.” In John’s Gospel, one word has been mistranslated, making it seem anti-Semitic when in fact the author was a first-century Galilean Jew living long before the Jesus sect became a mostly Gentile movement.

    I mean the Greek word, “ioudaioi” which means “Jews” or “Judeans” (ie: Jews from Judea rather than other provinces like Galilee), depending on context.

    In John’s Gospel, the word appears about 70 times and usually it means “Judeans” as it is often contrasted with references to Galilee.

    The word is often used as short-hand for the corrupt pro-Roman chief priests holding sway in Judea’s capital, Jerusalem. That’s because most of Jesus’ apostles, including John, were Galileans.

    Once we replace “Jews” with “Judeans,” the difference is stark. The apparent anti-Semitism vanishes and it reads as a Jewish family dispute between friends and foes of Jesus, with some regional tension between Galileans and Judeans.

  • Jack

    It depends on what you mean by “original sin.”

    Clearly, the eating of the forbidden fruit, whatever it means, denotes a catastrophic break in the fellowship with God that the first humans enjoyed in the Garden.

    The “before” vs. “after” are starkly different.

    God does not abandon humanity, but the text indicates that something has clearly changed and that the implications are profound.

    God still has a tender love for humanity, but it’s not the same relationship that once had been there.

    We are left after the Garden with the obvious question of whether that ideal initial relationship will be fully restored at some point.

  • Jack

    Garson, there was no unanimity, even among the leadership, local or national, on Jesus. Some hated him, others were on the fence, while others liked him or wanted to hear more from him.

    Also, there were differences on issues regarding the Torah within various groups. Most of the Pharisees of Jesus’s era were from the School of Shammai; the minority were from the School of Hillel. The dominant Shammai disciples conformed to the New Testament depiction of hyper-legalistic strictness; the smaller Hillel group was generally more interested in the spirit or aim of the Torah, not just the content.

    One reason most Orthodox Jews today who have read the Gospels see a strange, unfamiliar Orthodoxy is that today’s Orthodox emerged from the Hillel group, as the then-dominant Shammai school later perished during the failed war vs. Rome. The Hillel school wisely opposed the war; the Shammai school supported it. The Hillel school survived and Judaism through it.

  • Jack

    I can’t speak for Tom, because his anti-Jewish bias makes him unpredictable, but based on your logic, you’re tearing down Judaism as well as Christianity. You’re saying God will forgive your sins whether or not you repent of them.

    If so, you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether or not you observe Yom Kippur. That’s the logic of your position. You’re saying a loving God would not require a day of repentance and atonement.

    You can believe that, but once you do, you’re no longer in the orbit of either Judaism or Christianity. You’ve created your own religion whether consciously or not.

    As for the Pharisees, see my post above. The Gospels are quite accurate about the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, because most were from the School of Shammai, which was often quite legalistic. Today’s Judaism is descended more from the smaller School of Hillel, which is far less legalistic and more interested in the heart of the Torah.

  • Jack

    Tom, you fool no one but yourself. Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-45 that the authenticity of your faith and salvation will be shown in how you treat the Jewish people. Being a real jackass toward them, as you’re doing now, highlights the obvious. The God-shaped void in your heart remains empty.

  • patrick

    @ Everett

    “…. God who chooses who’s heart He will indwell. ”

    Doesn’t this statement declare religions irrelevant ?
    Or have you made a case absolute for pluralism – where all religions are equally valid ?

  • patrick

    @ Jack

    ” If so, you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether or not you observe Yom Kippur. ”

    By this ridiculously judgemental statement you are implying that Susan is Jewish. I read all her comments – and nowhere does she so state. I happen to agree with most-all of what she wrote – and I’m not Jewish.

    ” You can believe that, but once you do, you’re no longer in the orbit of either Judaism or Christianity. ”

    Such absolute certitude – such arrogance

    You are stating that YOU KNOW ALL the pre-requisites to be either Jewish or Christian – in a world of 7 billion people and some 2000 sects of Christianity and Judaism.

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it with religious conviction. — Blaise Pascal

  • patrick

    @ Jack, Mar 24, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    ” Ben, you can spend a thousand lifetimes seeking additional possibilities, but anything you come up with will fit one of the four mentioned above. ”

    I’m sure I could do it in under 647….

    ” As for corroboration, a document is refuted not by the absence of corroboration but by the presence of material contradiction….”

    The absurdity of this statement reflects the depth of ignorance of the writer, and is of such magnitude as to question the validity of all utterances from it’s author.

    “Sometimes we find ourselves walking through life blindfolded, and we try to deny that we’re the ones who securely tied the knot.”
    ― Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts

  • Ben in oakland

    Actually, Patrick, he has made a case for God as immoral, total monster. It’s a god only John Calvin could love.

    You are not saved unless you believe. If God does not Indwell, then you don’t believe. If you don’t believe, you are damned to hell for eternity. It goes well beyond god’s failure to get you the Christian memo, but makes God an accomplice, if not the prime mover, of a soul’s damnation.

  • Jack

    Tom the anti-Semite must have friends at Religion News Service, since trying to post responses to his rants is like trying to climb Mt. Everest bare-footed.

    Okay, here goes again. Tom, you have it backwards. When God gets mad at the Jews in the Bible, it’s not because theywere worse than anyone else (ie the Gentiles or the “nations”), but that they were imitating everyone else. They were acting like the nations when they were meant to be a light and example to the nations.

    So….apart from Jesus, what does that make you, Tom? Apart from Jesus, you’re part of the problem, the Jews are part of the solution, and they were not to imitate you, but to point you away from your own wickness and darkness to the solution.

    So for you to lord it over the Jews by calling them “wicked” is to take the Biblical message and read it backwards.

  • Jack

    Ben, that’s way too simplistic. What we’re dealing with is one of the great antinomies of the Bible — predestination v. free will. Both are asserted, each is argued in isolation of the other, but try to put the two together and they flatly contradict each other.

    But…..lest you think you can escape this antinomy through atheism, think again. The antinomy remains….in place of predestination, you have simple determinism. Meanwhile, free will remains.

    In other words, every effect has a cause, and yet free will exists at the same time. Go figure…..you can’t.

    That’s what an antinomy is. A is demonstrably true. B is demonstrably true. Yet A and B flatly contradict each other.

    Welcome to the wild and wooly world of reality.

  • Garson Abuita

    I wasn’t trying to imply that you said Pilate wasn’t brutal. I asked you to elaborate because you said something about something that happened in Roman politics that would explain the Gospels’ “bizarre,” your word, claims about Pilate. Now that you’ve presented your theory that, like the Gospels, portray a brutal, despotic, Jew-hating governor as the pliant tool of the Temple priests, this conversation is at an end.

  • Garson Abuita

    Tom, like I told you before, I’m in no way miserable and certainly in no need of adopting Christianity to increase my happiness. What Jesus wanted has nothing to do with what the Jews wanted. According to the Gospels, they wanted to kill him long before he was in Pilate’s custody. Putting a supernatural gloss over this — that all inconsistencies can be explained by “God wanted it that way” — makes articles like these beyond pointless.

  • Garson Abuita

    The discussion about divorce must be a glaring exception then.

  • Garson Abuita

    Patrick, Susan has stated elsewhere that’s she’s Jewish.

  • Jack

    Thanks but you could’ve said “we agree Pilate was brutal but how does that fit with the Pilate of the Gospels?”

    RNS doesn’t provide space for a full answer but this tyrant, due to his bad reputation in Rome, and his godfather’s execution in Rome, was in a “tail-wags-dog” moment in interacting with Caiaphas about Jesus. He responded incompetently and brutally, by executing the one he had just acquitted.

    I’m not at all saying he was “the pliant tool of the Temple priests.” He was a tyrant caught in a web from which extrication was possible were it not for his own bad character & reputation.

    He was no better than Caiaphas. Both were evil. (So say Philo & Josephus on Pilate and the Talmud on Caiaphas & his family.) The lone difference was this: Pilate saw Jesus as no threat Pilate; Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to Caiaphas. Pilate thus initially saw no need to crucify him. The mistake is to conclude that Pilate is thus portrayed as a good man.

  • Jack

    As for Pilate’s well-earned reputation for Jew-hating and contempt for both Jews and Judaism, there’s a providential footnote connected to his godfather’s execution in Rome, apparently shortly before the trial of Jesus:

    It turns out that this man was himself a vile anti-Semite just like Pilate. The man in question was plotting to slaughter the Jews across the Roman Empire, much like Haman had wanted to do across the Persian Empire four centuries earlier.

    In an odd twist of fate, it was the Romans’ uncovering his plot to kill the Roman emperor, and his subsequent execution, that (1) saved the Jewish people from destruction and (2) doomed Jesus, because Pilate no longer had a godfather in Rome to protect him.

    After the plot was thwarted, the Roman emperor Tiberius moved to prevent any aspect of the man’s plans against the Jewish people from being realized. Presumably that somewhat reined in Pilate during the final years of his being governor.

  • Jack

    It was clearly an exception. On the matter of divorce, Jesus’ position was far closer to Shammai’s than Hillel’s.

    The best story distinguishing the two schools was one of someone asking to convert to Judaism and to be taught Torah while standing on one foot or leg. Shammai threw the person out, seeing this as mockery and a lack of seriousness.

    But when he presented this to Hillel, he replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this–go and study it!”

    That story sums up Hillel better than any other. It also is compatible with the teachings of Jesus on the essence of the Torah. Clearly, he had greater affinity with Hillel than Shammai, exceptions notwithstanding.

  • Jack

    Thanks Garson for corroborating that.