Tuesday, April 6, 2010


We are told that biblical teachings are timeless, as relevant today as the day they were written (a day no scholar can seem to agree upon but I digress). However nothing is timeless. Context matters. Culture matters.

The stories that have been passed down, the ones which deify Jesus, were told in a time when it was commonly believed that people who do great service for the world become divine. In his culture this belief was not special to Jesus. This is even more interesting when paired with the belief held by many scholars that the birth story of at least one of the gospels (actually the FIRST gospel to be written) was added later, after the rest had been written and perhaps even by a different author. There is science to back up this finding but I don't really remember it- just that it existed in peer reviewed journals that specialize in ancient texts. So, if in fact people deified Jesus because of his great service to the world it would make sense that someone would then go back and add a birth story. A story that would set him apart from other deified humans because he didn't BECOME divine in this story, he was BORN divine.

Even more intriguing to me is that during the time of Jesus' life some royalty was referred to as the Son of God, Savior of the World, Bringer of Peace, and even Lord. This context changes everything for me. In my transition I have come to regard Jesus as my spiritual teacher, someone who achieved enlightenment and was trying to teach those who followed them how to do the same. I wanted to be his follower without having to attach belief to his divinity- again not something I disbelieved but not something I necessarily believed either. I wanted to study his teachings and learn from them. I wanted to be a student of his life instead of a worshiper of his death.

With this in mind I decided that I would simply read his teachings in the bible without all of the interpretation and input from the authors- only the red letter text. ;-) (And yes, I'm aware we can't verify that he actually said all of those things but we can't verify that Aristotle said all of those things either- it doesn't make what was said less important.) The problem I kept running into was that he referred to himself as the Son of Man, Son of God, and inferred all of the things I had convinced myself only other people had said about him. But he said it too- at least some of it.

But with this new information about the context of the culture in which he was living I understand. He was trying to establish his way in contrast with the ways of the Romans. Spiritual leaders of today do this- they use the jargon of politics in order to drive a point home. I now believe this is perhaps what Jesus was doing when he referred to himself with the same jargon being used by Roman aristocracy.

Time for me to re-read that red letter text with this fresh insight.

No comments:

Post a Comment