Image and Meaning

It all begins with a simple statement in the Bible (Genesis 1:27):

ויברא אלהים את האדם בצלמו בצלם אלהים ברא אתו זכר ונקבה ברא אתם׃

This statement is reaffirmed in Genesis 5:1-2.

זֶה סֵפֶר, תּוֹלְדֹת אָדָם:  בְּיוֹם, בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם, בִּדְמוּת אֱלֹהִים, עָשָׂה אֹתוֹ.

זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בְּרָאָם; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם, וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמָם אָדָם, בְּיוֹם, הִבָּרְאָם.

(This reaffirmation is not a simple accident.  In its literary context, it is apparent to me from the text that many of the biblical stories are consolidations of separate individual family histories that otherwise could stand alone.  They were called “books” – the book of Noah (called the book of Adam)).

The Jewish position is that no human can be God.  And yet, by having the above words as almost the beginning words of the Jewish story (before anyone listening to the oral tradition could tune out), there is the implicit assumption that we are like God.

The Christian position (for the most part) is that Jesus is ”God made human”.

Although this position is far from being uniformly represented in the gospels as historical accounts of how he was perceived during his life, there remain certain key phrases in the gospel accounts where this point is presented in what are alleged to be Jesus’ own words (John 10:30).

εγω και ο πατηρ εν εσμεν

I and the Father are one.

And then there are the many acts which are attributed to Jesus, which support a supernatural power, if they were accurately observed and reported.

There is little reason to suspect that accounts of this importance to the people that were involved would be lied about, particularly given the difficulty of writing.  And yet, there is more than one testament, the testaments do not exactly agree, there are other testaments of the time (Gospel of Thomas, etc.) that do not have the same version of Jesus’ life or events.  Why would they lie?

The evidence for deification comes from disputable ground.  One is left with the fact that a new religion based upon this deification has been established, that it has been extraordinarily successful in propagation. The fathers of the Christian church have carefully argued the point of the God-human nature of Christ  during the early centuries of the Christian church.  Sometimes the arguments have been philological (A father and a son must be by definition separate physical entities, one cannot be the son of the father, and the father at the same time). Additionally, to give fair play to both sides of the biblical argument, one has reports of:

1) dialogs (prayer)/disagreements between father and son (Let this cup pass…it didn’t).

2) the presence of all 3 (father, son, and holy spirit) in distinct forms during Baptism

This gives some room for interpretation as to exactly what “at ‘one’ with the Father means.”  Is it the same word as what is used for when a man and a woman marry, and become one?  (Mark 10:7-8)

ενεκεν τουτου καταλειψει ανθρωπος τον πατερα αυτου και την μητερα και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου

και εσονται οι δυο εις σαρκα μιαν ωστε ουκετι εισιν δυο αλλα μια σαρξ

Clearly, men and women still retain individual wills, and sometimes even divorce, or one dies and the other one lives…

If Jesus is both divine and human, melted together like some fused metal into a new ore, the historical singularity of the event must be recognized. Why has it only happened once that the divine and human intermingle in spite of many human specimens?  Are the prophets therefore not in any manner divine? Cyril of Alexandria reconciles this position, by stating that the simultaneous divine and human nature of Christ is not unlike the presence of the divine entity of the soul in a living being.  If one is to accept the second, then one must be prepared to recognize the first as a possibility.  The mixing then is somehow predicated on the existence of life, as most faiths assume that the soul departs from the body at death, or shortly thereafter.

After a few centuries, a new prophet, Muhammed appears, possibly recognizing (n.b. I think Muslims would argue that because Muhammed could neither read nor write, the recognition attributed here comes from God, not that Muhammed himself had this insight) that spiritual leadership was required in his people, and that within the Abrahamic tradition, a split had occurred.  This eventual reconciliation of history evolves after deliberation in all likelihood with a strong independent assertion from what had historically evolved to be a pretty oppressed biblically articulated position for Arabs in Judaism.  Muhammed, author of the Muslim faith (or poetic vehicle through which God spoke), gives Jesus the status of a prophet, not God.

I am going to summarize what I believe are some hard questions relating to the divinity of Christ:

1.  Why would (the) God (of the Israelites) choose to manifest Himself as a Jewish man?

2.  Why, if Jesus is God, would he separate rather than unify people?  Why would the simple criterion for salvation be “acceptance of Jesus as Savior”?

3.  Why would God profess Himself to be something that is against Jewish law?

4.  From whence does the requirement of suffering come for those in a position of Christian vs. Jewish vs. Muslim spiritual leadership?

5.  The claim of salvation through the crucifixion of Christ.  “Christ died for our sins.”  How does the suffering of another being ever atone to God for the sins of another?

6.  Theories of atonement abound.  Most of them have been articulated many years after the life of Jesus.

Roman Catholic Church

Satisfaction Theory

Eastern Orthodox Churches

Ransom Theory

Conservative & some Mainline Protestants

Penal Substitution Theory

Protestant Word-faith Movement

Ransom Theory

Liberal Christians & post Christians

Moral Theory or a non-violent theory

To summarize, I believe that the following points need to be carefully considered:

1) The implication of the deification of a human being.

2) The resulting absolution from accountability that a “human sacrifice” is given credit for.

3) The resulting religious division and war that occurred and still does because of the assertion of “Christ is God”.

From everything that I can gather from the forensic psychology of the new testaments, Jesus himself would not have wanted this division.  Evidence suggests that he was persecuted because he was perceived as a rebellious threat to authorities through his popular appeal, and not that he ever had an agenda of “tearing down the old religion”.  His final act before crucifixion was to visit Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

With this in mind, what would he have wanted his legacy to be?

This is, in the end, the final point.  In order to heal the religious division, we have to “redo” this historical singularity that was Jesus.  This does not necessarily mean denying Jesus or his example.  Simply rather, that it is fair to question who exactly he was, and what the meaning was of his life and death.  We have to return to a position of unity before the division. We have to return to a point where it is safe to question, and where we can have meaningful discussions about what the consequences are of accepting some of the tenets of Christianity.

Although, I believe that God exists, I am very satisfied and comfortable with the idea that I am not God, nor do I approach God’s divine nature even if I have a soul.  I feel the pain and sacrifice that surely was Jesus’ life that he, according to testament, gave to illustrate a nonviolent approach to authority.  I don’t really understand him as God.  I believe that it is psychologically healthier to accept that human kind has a status that is separate from God, although most of us also have an ability

to create and act.

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