An Inconvenient God (Part XVI)

For readers and followers of this blog, for this series only if you wish to reblog An Inconvenient God in individual chapters or in its entirety, I am okay with this.  I had foreseen this as being a book, but when I reached the end, I had said all there was for me to say and it is clearly not enough for a book.

At different points in each chapter I ask questions.  I do not ask them in search of answers for myself because I already know where I stand.  I ask them as catalyst for the reader to consider.

Chapter Sixteen – The Big Three

A Look at the Three Monotheistic Religions

 

57% of the world’s population believe in the God of Abraham. Of those, 57% are Christian, 41% are Muslim, and 2% are Jewish. Outside of the monotheistic big three, 15% are Hindi, 9% follow Buddhism, 10% are other religions, 9% are non-believers and 1% identify themselves as atheist.

The following is taken from a research paper I wrote for an Ancient Civilization class at Grand View University in the spring of 2014.

Jesus – Man, Messenger, Martyr, or Messiah?

 

The objective of this part is to look at Jesus of Nazareth from the view of the Jews, Islam, and the Roman Catholics. Was Jesus just a common man?  

  • Was Jesus sent from God to bring God’s chosen people back into the embrace of God as the Messiah?

 

  • Was Jesus sent to bring the gentiles into favor with God?
  • Was Jesus a prophet, no different than the other prophets listed in the Torah and Old Testament?

 

Jesus the Jew

Born to Joseph and Mary, Jesus was raised by his earthly father who was a carpenter by trade. The earthly father of Jesus was a direct descendent of King David. His mother, Mary, was a virgin as prophesized by Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14 of the Holy Bible to be the mother of the Messiah. His childhood was documented, but those books never made it into the Holy Bible and whether the Jewish faith recorded his life is still debated today, with the Jews viewing Jesus as another ordinary Jew.[1]

Raised in Judaism as a Jew, Jesus upon reaching adulthood began preaching. The divisions between Jesus and the priests and Pharisees grew as Jesus didn’t mirror what was being done in the temples by the leadership; and he showed the priests the error of their ways by direct confrontation. As depicted in the Holy Bible, the Jewish leadership, believing they are the chosen people regardless of their actions, were threatened by Jesus who was gaining acceptance and followers. In order to quash the momentum that Jesus was gaining through his preaching to the common people throughout Judea and Israel, the priests turned to their Roman handlers to deal with their problem. [2]

Did the Jewish hierarchy, who according to the Bible witnessed his complete knowledge of the Torah and some of the miracles he performed, really believe he was not the messiah, or did they just see him as a threat to their comfortable lifestyles and get Pontius Pilate to remove their threat?   For centuries they had used the temples for personal gain without anyone questioning them; but now had someone who was believed to some to be the Messiah that could counter their every challenge.

For the purpose of this research paper, it is really inconvenient that the Jewish leadership of the time did not record any information about Jesus and their dealings with him. The Jewish people had good record-keeping skills on other matters of the faith, but in this case there are none that I found with the exception of the record written by Titus Flavius Josephus. In the Antiquitates Judaicae, Titus Flavius Josephus, who was a person of Jewish heritage and Roman citizenship wrote “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease.  He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him.  And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared. “   Later in history, there are those who started claiming Josephus would not have written this because of the statement that Jesus was the “Messiah.”   Lest for this one record by Josephus from the same century that Jesus lived, there would be no records of Jesus outside of the Christian Bible and other gospels not accepted for the Bible.

  • Is this because, as Jewish author David Klinghoffer claims, that when the Jewish uprising against the Romans happened in the first century, the Christian Jews did not back them up, and according to Klinghoffer, fled across the Jordan River to safety?[3]

 

As for the Jews, some claimed he was a Pharisee, others followed him as the Messiah, but the vast majority of the Jewish leadership believed he was nothing more than a man.

Jesus to Islam

Prior to Islam, Arabia was individual tribes that had individual gods or goddesses they prayed to for protection. There were also Jewish, Christian, and Hanif communities dotting the land. The Hanifs are said to be monotheistic followers of strict belief on the laws of Abraham. The Kaaba shrine in Mecca housed 360 individual idols of gods and goddesses including three that were claimed to be the daughters of the God of Abraham.

According to Islam, God promised Abraham’s maid and mother of Ishmael that her son, the half-brother of Isaac, would become a great nation. Where Judaism descended from Isaac, Islam is founded through Ishmael. Muhammad, according to Muslims, is a direct descendent of Ishmael.

Muhammad began preaching what he said were revelations from God that were given to him by Gabriel while praying in caves. After some time of preaching the revelations to people in Mecca, he heard that he was to be dealt with for teaching these beliefs that were not in line with the common beliefs. Fearing for his life, Muhammad made his escape with some of his followers to Medina while sending others to Abyssinia.

Non-Muslims consider Muhammad to be the founder of Islam, while Muslims see him as the restorer of the unaltered monotheistic faith of the prophets from Adam to Jesus and the other prophets. The nation of Islam when it comes to Jesus says that he was a prophet, a messenger of God, but not the son of God. They believe God to be outside of nature and all powerful, but they don’t believe he would cause a woman to become pregnant so that he could be born of the flesh.

The Muslims and Christians hold these beliefs in common about Jesus:

  • Jesus was holy in that he lived in this world and remained sin free;
  • Mary was pure and holy;
  • Mary conceived Jesus while she remained a virgin; and
  • Jesus did perform many miracles.

Muslims and Christians differ on Jesus:

  • Where Christians assert the divinity of Jesus, Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet only;
  • Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God, but Muslims believe God cannot give birth so God has no sons or daughters;
  • Christians say that Jesus was crucified and then was resurrected; Muslims say it only seems like Jesus was crucified and God took Jesus up to God, Himself; and
  • Christians believe that Jesus died to redeem us from our sins and relieve us from our original sin, Muslims do not believe in the original sin and therefore we do not need to be saved from it.

Even though the teachings of Islam claim Jesus to be a prophet and believe in the same God as Jews and Christians, many Muslims also believe that unless you convert to Islam, you are to be murdered per an interpretation of Quran 9:29 which states “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”

  • If a person is a prophet in your beliefs, why would you not honor the followers of that ‘prophet’ for their beliefs?

 

If Muhammad had believed and preached that Jesus was the Messiah, Islam would not exist as a monotheistic religion, but as a Christian sect.

 

  • Was this because Muhammad could not fathom that the God who created the earth, the sun, all other life, and the first beings from the soil could also create life in the womb of a woman?

 

  • Could this be because Muhammad was charismatic and wanted to lead others and in order to do so created his own version of faith as many others throughout history have done?

 

Today, many Muslims say Christians are not believers in the same God because Christians are polytheistic. They claim that since Christians believe in the Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, they are praying to three different deities. This bothers me how shallow some people can be. It would be like claiming you can be a child to your parents; a sibling to your brothers and sisters; a parent to your child, but you cannot fill all three roles as that would mean you are more than one person.

  • Are Muslims that claim Christians polytheists doing so due to the inability to recognize God can have more than one role and title?

 

Jesus to the Roman Catholics

Roman Catholicism is one of the earliest established Christian sects there is. Some would argue that the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria that was founded by the apostle Mark in 42 AD is the longest standing Christian church. Since the membership of the Roman Catholic Church is larger, for the purpose of this research paper, we shall make it so, but I personally believe the Coptics’ beliefs might more closely resemble what Christianity resembled in the early days.

After the First Council of Nicaea, which was held in 325 AD, the books to be included in the New Testament were set and those within the church who thought and taught differently than what the majority of attendees agreed to, were defrocked. The attendees also set up the rules for becoming a bishop of the church. Finally, the last major result of this council was to set rules for gentiles to become Christian. The Council of Nicaea is where the main split between the Catholics and the Coptics occurred because of differing views of Jesus. It was at this council that it was determined that since God had no beginning and no end, the Son of God would not have a beginning nor end either. They also determined that Jesus was of God and therefore is inseparable from God.

Councils in the Catholic Church have been summoned together to deal with questions of the identity of Jesus multiple times since the First Council of Nicaea that have arisen from heretics (those who have ideas that do not align with the Roman Catholic Church) to redefine and refine the physical and spiritual identity of Jesus.

The final doctrine of Jesus is that he was the new Passover. Whereas God commanded the Jews to paint the blood of the ram over their doors so that the angel of death would Passover their homes and not take the first born son in the Old Testament (The Holy Bible, Exodus 11-12); Jesus was sent from God to become the blood of the lamb so that death will pass us over in the New Testament. Although the Son of God, he is God and whosoever believes and accepts Jesus as savior will be delivered from death into everlasting life (The Holy Bible, Peter 1:18-21, John 3:15)

Jesus to Me, a Protestant

This was taken from a paper I wrote in my Christian Faith and Living Class, also at Grand View University.

 

My personal faith is centered on Christianity and Jesus based upon my upbringing. Having travelled the world and experienced many different religions around the world, my view of Jesus of Nazareth might be considered diluted by some, or enlightened by others. To put my understanding of Jesus in words is not an easy path to walk, but I will try.

 

A blind man can see beauty much better than a sighted man because his eyes cannot interfere with the view.

 

To understand the earthly life of Jesus, you have to understand the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Some say the problem with the Bible is that it was written by man and has been rewritten so many times that the Bible of today may no longer reflect the spirit of God.   Others say that each time the Bible is translated, the hand of the translator is guided by God to prevent it being perverted. Each consecutive translation of the Bible has been written to in a manner to “reach a new audience” or “make it easier to understand.” The problem with this is the less a reader has vested into the reading, the less that will be retained.

 

The trail that challenges the hiker will be remembered long after the walk in the park is forgotten.

 

Personally, I think as some others do that God may allow man to dilute the writing, but those who really want to follow will still be able to comprehend the meaning of his word. I do not care for the newer versions of the Bible as they don’t always concur with my perception. I prefer reading the King James Version as it forces me to read the words, contemplate the meaning, and then absorb the spirit of what was said.

 

It is not important to know the dictionary definition of what is being said, but it is imperative to know the spirit of the message.

 

My final consideration before delving into the life of Jesus is the contemplation of what was written in the gospels that were not accepted by The Council of Nicaea.   I have heard of the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Judas, and others. The loss of these gospels are comparable in a way to the missing Watergate tapes of President Nixon, without them, we don’t see the whole story and cannot separate the wheat from the chaff.

 

It is better to question the teacher than to be taught wrong.

 

JESUS – The Wonder Years

 

Born to Mary and Joseph, the birth of Jesus is well recorded for all to behold. The visit of the three sages to his birth site is the validation of him as the Messiah. After the birth, his early childhood years as the son of a carpenter are pretty much ignored in the Bible. This part of the Bible I personally have issues with.

 

  • What was in the childhood of Jesus that was deemed not necessary in the story of his life?

 

  • Even though he is the son of God, were there incidents that Jesus was childlike and got into trouble with his earthly parents and heavenly father?

 

  • Was he the good boy that never got into mischief and then one day as an adult began his father’s mission?

 

  • At what point in His life did He decide it was time to begin His spiritual journey to lead man back to God’s path?

 

  • Is this period recorded but not readily available to be considered?

 

  • I have heard the conspiracy theories and the stories about Jesus’s childhood, but what was so damning that it was left out?

 

 

The fool rushes to a decision based on part of the story, while the wise man waits to hear the whole story. – Me

 

 

JESUS – The Preaching Years

 

The New Testament has many wonderful stories about Jesus in his adult life travelling through Eastern Mediterranean preaching. The stories of him healing the sick and resurrecting the dead hold two values; first, proving his divine nature, and second as a lesson for us to care for those less fortunate. The stories of him preaching in the temples, often upsetting the priests and wealthy showed he had no fear of those who could harm him on earth because he had righteousness on his side.

 

  • The story of Jesus feeding the masses with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, is it truth or is it a metaphor representing those who hunger for the faith and hope of everlasting life can have their hunger satiated through Jesus (the many are fed with very little)?

 

  • If it is a metaphor, is that a factor in believing Jesus is the Messiah?

 

Throughout the stories of his life, there are metaphors for us to benefit from, but we have to want to see them to find them.

 

Your journey through life it not as important as how you improve the trail for those who follow. – Me

 

JESUS – Dying to Live

 

As Jesus travelled and preached he continually upset the priests and scribes by bringing their transgressions to the attention of the masses. Did he do this to bring about his end to earthly existence or was it to give them a chance to change their ways? Maybe it was a combination of the two. Either way, the result was his earthly death and ascension back into heaven to his rightful place at God’s right hand. This also shows that if we follow his lead, we too will be reborn into the Kingdom of Heaven once our life here has ended.

 

Wealth is not measured by the amount of worldly goods you amass while you are here, but by how long and how fondly you are remembered after you are gone. – Me

 

 

JESUS – What is He all About?

 

To me, the New Testament accounts of Jesus are irrelevant as to whether or not the stories are true or metaphors to guide us. Either way, they give us the guidance needed to live our lives here appropriately to give us the opportunity for everlasting life. Each story is an opportunity for quiet philosophical contemplation alone or a boisterous debate with others while seeking the spiritual truth. To know the truth though, you have to be able to see past the words.

 

Jesus is the son of God and He was sent by God to bring back His people who had once again strayed. To the poor and weak, He was then and is now hope for a better existence after this life. For the powerful and wealthy, He was then and is now an inconvenience and therefore must be destroyed to protect their interests. Had the priests and scribes accepted Jesus as the Messiah, it would mean they had to acknowledge their wickedness which was counterproductive to their lifestyle. If they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, it would also mean that they would have to be judged for what they were doing, which was also not palatable to them.

 

We are all temples unto the Lord. Whether we strive to keep the temple holy or let it be used by others for their personal gain is only determined by the free will God gives us. We all have to face doubts at one time or another and either work through them or give into them. It is all part of the package deal in the Kingdom of Heaven Tour.

 

The Bible is the customer support manual for living a good and righteous life. It gives the operating instructions to be successful, but we have to be willing to read, contemplate and absorb these lengthy instructions to succeed. It is also the magic 8 ball when we come to dilemmas. There have been many, many times that I have sought guidance for issues at hand. Each time I have been able to reach to the Bible and at random open it up to the answer.

 

Conclusion

For the Jews from early history, Jesus was a man who was martyred for his beliefs that were against Judaism of the day. Today, many Jews see Jesus as nothing more than a common man, while a few see Him as a failed Messiah or a failed messenger. For the Roman Catholics, Jesus is the Messiah who was sent by God to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, re-establish the message of God to the people, bring his chosen people back to God’s law and favor, and is God himself. To the Muslims, Jesus was a prophet much like Muhammad, but Muhammad is considered the final messenger/prophet.

As if that is not enough to ponder, I suggest the following scenarios.

  • What if the Jews were God’s chosen people but as they strayed from the covenant they had with God, he sent Jesus not only to fulfill the prophecy, but bring back God’s people to living by God’s law?

 

  • Then, with the success of Christianity, what if God sent messages to Muhammad to spread his word throughout the tribes of Arabia?

 

  • However, as it is with all things involving humans, what if it was man who perverted the message and the law and instead of Judaism, Christianity and Islam working together in harmony for the glory of God, we are fighting amongst ourselves like three sons who all claim to be their father’s favorite child?

 

If you look at Muhammad, you see again that Jews and Christians consider him a common man and only Muslims revere him as the final prophet. It does not help that the Qur’an says part of the Torah is falsified and that Jesus was not the prophesized Messiah.

 

The one trend you can see in this is the older religions claim the newer are not correct. Also, the newest of the three finds fault in the other two. It is easy to see that this is the work of man trying to discredit the other religions, not the work of God.

 

 

Jew Christian Muslim
Who is God? The God of Abraham The God of Abraham The God of Abraham
Who is Jesus? A Common Man The Messiah A Prophet
Who is Mohammed? A Common Man A Comman Man The Final Prophet
What are the Books of Moses Scripture Scripture Scripture
What is the Torah? The Scripture Partly Scripture Partly Scripture
What is the Bible? Partly Scripture The Scripture Partly Scripture
What is the Qu’ran? Partly Scripture Partly Scripture The Scripture

[1] Clive Lawton, “Jesus through Jewish Eyes” BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/beliefs/eyes_1.shtml

[2] W. P. CROZIER, Letters of Pontius Pilate, http://owen_eir.tripod.com/pilatetext.html,

 

[3] Rebecca Phillips and Laura Sheahen, “Why the Jews Don’t Accept Jesus”, http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2005/03/Why-Jews-Dont-Accept-Jesus.aspx

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About The Rural Iowegian

I am the Rural Iowegian of www.ruraliowegian.wordpress.com a published author and an award winning photographer. I use this space to speak my mind. God Bless.
This entry was posted in An Inconvenient God, Education, Nourishment For The Soul, Religion, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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