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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Two Views of Jesus’s Murder

The Two Views of Jesus’s Murder

Christianity has two conflicting views of Jesus’s Crucifixion, that
God sacrificed his Son to atone for mankind’s sins, or that Jesus
demanded economic and political justice for the poor and was
killed by Jerusalem’s power structure. The two interpretations
lead in very different directions, as Rev. Howard Bess explains.

By Rev. Howard Bess
Consortiumnews.com
March 30, 2013

Christian Holy Week begins with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem (Palm
Sunday) and concludes with his celebrated resurrection (Easter).

But what happened during that fateful week and the meaning of
the Crucifixion remain a central focus of Christian debate.

Was Jesus killed by the Romans as an insurrectionist because he
favored political and economic justice for the poor and acted out
his outrage by overturning money-changing tables at the Temple?

Or did he die as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind in
the eyes of God?

Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins, has brought the subject into
sharp focus as a challenge to the traditional Christian theology
that Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin and that his sacrificial
death was somehow required by a just God so the sins of the
world could be forgiven.

For many Christians this understanding of this sacrificial death
of Jesus presents a stern, demanding God (arranging the brutal
torture and murder of his only begotten son) rather than a loving
heavenly father who embraces all of humankind out of boundless
love.

Bell argues that the two images of God (a demanding tyrant
God and a loving God) are so incompatible that a choice must
be made.

Bell argues that there can be only one conclusion, i.e. the title
of his book: Love Wins.

Yet, among early Christians, there was no commonly accepted
meaning and understanding of the death of Jesus.

According to the gospel accounts, the Crucifixion took place
because he was charged with insurrection, and his call for the
establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth was interpreted
as seeking the overthrow of the Roman rulers.

This history has strong supporting research.

Based on that research, scholars believe that Jesus grew up
and taught in a rural area 70 miles north of Jerusalem.

His faith was shaped, not by Jerusalem and the Temple, but by
weekly gatherings of the community elders as they read Torah
(Jewish law) and discussed its meaning.

Jesus and his followers had only limited contact with Jerusalem’s
social, political and religious leaders, mostly through the retainers
(enforcers) of Herod’s Roman rule who also represented the
Jerusalem Temple.

Retainers made regular trips into the rural north to collect tithes
and taxes.

To understand Jesus, one must realize the depth of his contempt
for both the rule of Herod and the religious rulers of the Temple.

Northern Palestine was a hotbed for what was known as the small
tradition, which found heroes in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah
and other Old Testament prophets, almost all of whom were critics
of the great tradition leaders who controlled the Temple in
Jerusalem.

As modern New Testament scholars have reconstructed the context
in which Jesus lived and taught, they have realized that Jesus was
not simply a religious figure.

He was a severe critic of those who controlled the Temple, those
who controlled the Empire, and those who controlled the economic
systems that starved and robbed the poor and left the orphan and
the widow to fend for themselves.

To Jesus, these issues all tied together.

But Jesus was a largely unknown and harmless critic as long as he
remained in his northern rural setting.

He was clearly an apocalyptic preacher.

He advocated overthrow of a corrupt system. He believed the days
of the oppressors were numbered.

But he believed the overthrow could be accomplished by love,
mercy and kindness.

Jesus took his message to Jerusalem. However, to call his arrival
a triumphal entry is to miss the point completely.

He chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey as mockery of
the ruler’s horse. It was an ancient form of street theatre that
Jesus and his followers used to make their point.

The great tradition that was accepted by Jerusalem’s masses
was being publicly taunted by a figure of the small tradition.

But the critical point of Jesus’s visit to Jerusalem came when he
visited the Temple. In no sense had he come to worship and make
sacrifice.

He went to disrupt and to make pronouncements about the
judgment of God on the whole operation.

He went to the Temple to announce the destruction of a whole
way of life.

As a result, the charges that were leveled against Jesus can
be summed up as insurrection.

There were three specific charges: encouraging non-payment of
taxes, threatening to destroy property (the Temple), and claiming
to be a king.

It was the Temple incident that took Jesus from being an irritating,
but harmless country rebel from the rural north to a nuisance in a
city that controlled the great tradition.

As a result, Rome’s retainers killed him on a cross.

Yet, how Christians later interpreted these events was influenced
by the Old Testament in which priests laid out a sacrificial system
in which animals were ceremonially sacrificed to appease God for
the sins of the people.

Solomon had built a great Temple to carry out these sacrifices.

Some Old Testament prophets protested this system, as did Jesus.

The Gospel of John reflected the commonly held interpretation of
Jesus’s Crucifixion in the early Second Century C.E.

Stated simply, according to the John writer, Jesus died a martyr’s
death on behalf of his friends in protest against a corrupt political
and religious system.

Jesus willingly died because he loved his friends.

There is another notable insight found in John 15. Jesus is quoted as
saying “No longer will I call you servants but rather I call you friends.”

In a bold move, the John writer wipes out the master/servant
relationship between Jesus and his disciples and makes it into
a friendship so close that Jesus would gladly die for them.

In the passage, Jesus is prompted to call his disciples “friends”
four times.

No other place in the four gospels are the disciples called “friends”
of Jesus.

However, centuries after Jesus’s death, the Latin interpretation
of the Crucifixion took over the Church’s understanding of what
happened on that first “Good Friday.”

In Latinized Christianity, which followed the Old Testament
sacrificial system, the cross became an altar on which Jesus
became a sacrificial lamb.

According to the Latinized version, Jesus died for the sins of the
world to appease an upset God.

Now, many thoughtful Christians, led by Rob Bell, are protesting
as unacceptable that understanding of the cross.

Yet, the passage found in John’s gospel gives us a new insight into
the meaning of Holy Week and its celebrations.

Holy Week does not find its most profound meaning in a sacrificial
system that is demanded by an upset God.

Holy Week is a time to celebrate a friendship with Jesus, who is
viewed by Christians as the special son of a loving God, a friendship
so profound that Jesus was willing to die for the just causes of his
friends.



The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who
lives in Palmer, Alaska.

http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/29/the-two-views-of-jesuss-
murder

2 comments:

  1. WOWWIE-ZOWWIE !! THIS IS ONE OF THE VERY- ***BEST*** ESSAYs I'V EVER READ RE OUR CULTURAL "HERO" --- JESUS THE CRUCIFY'D !!

    PLEASE IGNORE MY EARLY-ER POST, IN WHICH I ASK'D WHAT DO YOU DO: AFTER READ'N THE ABOVE ESSAY, WELL, I {( LIKE )}, TOTAL-LY "GET" WHAT U DO !!

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !!
    SINCERE-LY, MARK "TRUTH-LOVER", NEWARK-DELAWARE-USA, 19-APRIL-2013

    ReplyDelete
  2. YO: CHECK-OUT THIS YOUTUBE-VIDEO:

    "THERE WILL BE NO RAPTURE, AND JESUS IS NOT COMING BACK: PASTOR RAY HAGINS"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiLq5UWNIuA

    IT'S A REAL, HONEST-TO-GOD, "BIBLE-THUMP'N" PREACHER, TELL'N SOME ***TRUTH***, INSTEAD OF SPREAD'N MORE "BRAIN-WASH-ING" !!

    ReplyDelete

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