Jesus - Our Misconception

On: Monday, June 18, 2012

If you want to understand Jesus, you have to study the whole Bible. Christian duty is not defined solely by the words in red.  - Randall Terry

 "Most televangelists, popular Christian preacher icons, and heads of those corporations that we call megachurches share an unreflective modern view of Jesus—that he translates easily and almost automatically into a modern idiom. The fact is, however, that Jesus was not a person of the twenty-first century who spoke the language of contemporary Christian America (or England or Germany or anywhere else). Jesus was inescapably and ineluctably a Jew living in first-century Palestine. He was not like us, and if we make him like us we transform the historical Jesus into a creature that we have invented for ourselves and for our own purposes.
  Jesus would not recognize himself in the preaching of most of his followers today. He knew nothing of our world. He was not a capitalist. He did not believe in free enterprise. He did not support the acquisition of wealth or the good things in life. He did not believe in massive education. He had never heard of democracy. He had nothing to do with going to church on Sunday. He knew nothing of social security, food stamps, welfare, American exceptionalism, unemployment numbers, or immigration. He had no views on tax reform, health care (apart from wanting to heal leprosy), or the welfare state. So far as we know, he expressed no opinion on the ethical issues that plague us today: abortion and reproductive rights, gay marriage, euthanasia, or bombing Iraq. His world was not ours, his concerns were not ours, and—most striking of all—his beliefs were not ours.
  Jesus was a first-century Jew, and when we try to make him into a twenty-first-century American we distort everything he was and everything he stood for. Jesus himself was a complete supernaturalist. He believed in the Devil and demons and the forces of evil at work in this world. He knew little—possibly almost nothing—about the workings of the Roman Empire. But what little he knew, he considered evil. He may have considered all government evil unless it was a (future) theocracy to be run by God himself through his messiah. He certainly was no proponent of our political views, whatever our views happen to be.
  These forces of evil were asserting their control over the world with increasing vehemence. But Jesus thought that God would soon intervene and destroy them all to bring in his good kingdom on earth. This would not come from human effort—expanding democracy, building up national defense, improving the educational system, winning the war on drugs, and so on. Human effort counted for nothing. It would come from God, when he sent a cosmic judge to destroy the present order and to establish God’s kingdom here on earth. This was no metaphor for Jesus. He believed it was going to happen. And happen soon. Within a few years.
  Jesus was mistaken about that. He was mistaken about a lot of things. People don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. Jesus was a man of his own time. And just as all men and women of their own time are wrong about so many things, so too was Jesus. And so too are we.
  The problem then with Jesus is that he cannot be removed from his time and transplanted into our own without simply creating him anew. When we create him anew we no longer have the Jesus of history but the Jesus of our own imagination, a monstrous invention created to serve our own purposes. But Jesus is not so easily moved and changed. He is powerfully resistant. He remains always in his own time. As Jesus fads come and go, as new Jesuses come to be invented and then pass away, as newer Jesuses come to take the place of the old, the real, historical Jesus continues to exist, back there in the past, the apocalyptic prophet who expected that a cataclysmic break would occur within his generation when God would destroy the forces of evil, bring in his kingdom, and install Jesus himself on the throne. This is the historical Jesus. And he is obviously far too historical for modern tastes. That is why so many Christians today try to reform him."

 Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (pp. 334-336). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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