SEX IN THE NEW KINGDOM: Jesus was generally pro-marriage (Mark 10:6-9). He was definitely against extra-marital affairs and divorce (e.g., Matthew 5:27-28, Mark 10:10-12). However, he suggested that it would be wise to make oneself a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom (Matthew 19:12). He also said that once the dead are resurrected (which would happen on the Day of Judgment, the day the Kingdom starts), they would no longer marry or be married (Mark 12:18-25; the point is amplified at Luke 20:34-35). Jesus was vague about the question of marriage, sex and birth in the upcoming Kingdom; perhaps intentionally so. However, one can infer that the Kingdom would be a place without death and also without birth. It would be a "steady state" where no one leaves and no one new takes their place; arguably then, it would have no need for the human sexual instinct and the institution of marriage. Instead, all would be "like angels" (Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30, Luke 20:36), although they would have bodies (as Jesus and Lazarus and the young daughter of Jairus allegedly had on their resurrections). RETURN
THE PHARISEES WROTE THE SCRIPT: The Gospels make the Pharisees out to be Jesus' enemy. But many scholars believe that Jesus and the Pharisees had a lot in common. Since the time of the Maccabees, the Pharisees had preached a doctrine that promised a spiritual life after death whereby the wicked would be punished and the good would be raised up from the ground, reunited with their body, and resurrected back to life in a Godly kingdom on Earth. That kingdom would be brought forth by "the Messiah" at the "end of time". See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 3. Jesus and his followers obviously made extensive use of this Pharisee teaching. It is summarized quite well by Martha in her discussion with Jesus just prior to Lazarus' resurrection (John 11:24-27). RETURN
JESUS AND MODERN JUDAISM: For the most part, modern Judaism has taken a "no comment" attitude to Jesus. Jewish teachers make it clear that they do not regard Jesus as either the Savior, Son of God, or Messiah. Beyond that, they haven't said very much, and with good reason. Jews have experienced much violence and bloodshed at the hands of Christians since the time of Jesus. It is possible that Christian communities were persecuted by certain traditional Jewish sects in the First Century. But over the next nineteen centuries, Christians returned the favor many, many times over.
Nevertheless, Judaism is saying volumes in its silent witness to Jesus. The Jews are Jesus' family. They know who he is and who he isn't. When they hear Christian interpretations of Jesus, which are influenced by classic Greek / Roman thought, Jewish silence in effect replies "no, that is not him".
Christianity has shed much blood over the centuries asserting the alleged mystical promise of Jesus' divinity, as have the Jews shed much blood asserting a mythical promise of territorial dominion. Perhaps it is time for everyone to reconsider where the Kingdom of God truly resides: contrary to the Christians, it does not reside exclusively in Jesus, and contrary to the Jews, it does not reside exclusively in Palestinian soil. Perhaps someday Jews and Christians can join hands in fulfilling that quest. RETURN
THE JEFFERSON BIBLE AND DEISM: For an example of "rational" spiritual comprehension amidst Enlightenment thinkers, read a copy of the Jefferson Bible, a re-writing of the Gospels by Thomas Jefferson. Jesus is presented as an eminently reasonable man like Jefferson, without all the exorcisms, miracles and "my Abba in Heaven" stuff. And also without the contradictions found between the four Gospels, contradictions that drove Enlightened rationalists crazy. Footnote to a footnote: In 170, a Christian writer named Tacian composed a harmonization of the four Gospels. This document was called the Diatessaron. So, Jefferson wasn't the first to try to paint a consistent picture of Jesus. Jefferson's rationalist approach to religion made him a "Deist", a fairly common view amidst America's Founding Fathers; Adams, Franklin, Washington, Paine and Madison all professed Deist-like beliefs. Abraham Lincoln may also have held Deist views; Lincoln believed in God but was not religious, saying that he was looking for a church whose only creed was the Golden Rule. RETURN
EXORCISMS AND FEEDINGS: Some scholars feel that Jesus' exorcisms and feeding miracles (the feeding of the 4000 and the 5000) are grounded in actual events. (See, e.g., John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, Vol. 2). As to exorcisms, recall that there were no psychologists at the time; mental and behavioral conditions that caused aberrant behavior were seen to be caused by evil spirits. The point of view behind exorcism was certainly positive: the person who was acting badly was not judged to be bad, but instead was seen to be possessed by some external badness. In a sense, an exorcism was a way of telling the person that it was not their fault and that they were still well regarded. That could obviously have a healing effect. As to the feeding stories, they may represent exaggerated remembrances of impromptu gatherings around Jesus where people began to share what they had, making for a very positive experience. RETURN
DID THE ROMANS DIVIDE THE JESUS FOLLOWERS FROM THE JEWS? Some historians believe that the split between Judaism and early Christianity was fomented by Emperor Nero in his effort to weaken Judaism through internal dissent, and thus help the Empire to wage a war of execution against the Jews. RETURN
JESUS AND THE APOCALYPSE: Scholars often cite Jesus' words about the "Coming of the Kingdom", the "Son of Man", the Awful Horror and the Final Judgment as a key part of his message; he is generally classified by academians as an apocalyptic preacher. Few would doubt that Jesus used these or similar words. Jesus certainly did not invent these concepts. They were quite popular amidst Judaism at the time, as a response to the disappointment of Roman conquest after a brief period of Jewish political restoration about 100 years before under the Maccabees. John the Baptist was a good example of the apocalyptic preachers of the time, and the Essenes and Pharisees also included apocalypse in their message. Thus, it would be very unusual, and probably ineffective, for a Jewish preacher of the time not to use such language. Jesus probably believed that God was about to trigger a metaphysical upheaval and that he, Jesus, was to be the grand marshal of this event (e.g., the Son of Man coming in the clouds, as in Daniel 7:13 and Mark 13:26); by 21st Century standards he would thus be considered a "nutcase". But then again, we can't judge a 1st Century man by 21st Century standards. An important point is that Jesus called for personal righteousness and loving kindness more as an immediate entrance to God's Kingdom, and less as an avoidance of hell as John the Baptist emphasized. RETURN
DID JESUS BELIEVE IN A HEAVENLY AFTERLIFE? The Gospels say that Jesus did rise in body and flesh, but for a limited time only. He then departed for the ethereal Heavens, where God resides. As such, the Gospels "split the difference" between the Jewish view of an afterlife on a renewed earth, and the Greek view of an abstract God out there in an ethereal, otherworldly place (e.g., Plato's Realm of The Forms). The mainline Christian churches today promise us a spiritual afterlife in an otherworldly (Greek) fashion. However, in his words and actions before the crucifixion, Jesus didn't seem to be thinking about the intellectual Greek viewpoint regarding life after death. He anticipated that God's Kingdom would happen right here on earth, and that good people (the saved) would live out eternity in the vicinity of Jerusalem. This was quite in keeping with the Jewish viewpoint, which emphasized real, tangible things over intellectual constructs.
The Jewish views of the afterlife developed over many centuries, and were never fully and exactly spelled out. Given their preference for the real over the imagined, the ancient Jews spent more time talking about living than about what happens after death. The Torah does allow for a spirit of life that exists within the body but does not die with it. All the earliest Biblical writers had to say, however, was that this spirit would go to "Sheol", a dark, shadowy place. After the Babylonian conquest, however, the Jews were exposed to Zoroastrian views regarding judgment of the soul at the time of death, and the eventual return of just souls in restored bodies to a renewed earth.
The later Greek conquest of Israel added views regarding the immortality of the soul and the idea that God resided in a far off spiritual place (which we know as Heaven). As reflected in the books of Enoch, Daniel, Wisdom and Maccabees (all written from 200 to 50 years before Jesus), the Jews mixed these concepts together in a variety of ways. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had concocted a belief in a God in a remote Heaven, who would eventually send a Messiah to this Earth to permanently end the earthly kingdoms and rulers that we live under (i.e., the "end of time"), and sit in judgment of the living and the dead. The dead, even though buried, still had a living soul. If the dead person was judged to be a righteous person, his or her soul would come back to earth in a restored body, as to participate in the Godly kingdom that would now reign. Although the earlier book of Enoch anticipated a 500 year or 1000 year reign of this Kingdom, later writings seemed to mix in the Greek view of immortality. So, Jesus may well have envisioned an eternal "Heaven on Earth" led by the Messiah / Son of Man (as God's representative; remember, God now lives in far off Heaven, where bodies cannot go). As such, Jesus' view of the afterlife may have been quite different from what the Christian Church leaders eventually taught, given their increasing concern over time for the Greek-thinking Gentiles. RETURN