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The Jewish Jesus and the Lost Heart of Judaism: Part 2
 Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  March 7, 2021

 All Rights Reserved

 


THE LOST SPIRIT FILLED HEART OF JUDAISM - RECOVERED HISTORICAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION
This is part two of background needed for our journey to discover the historical Jesus. To understand who Jesus was, what He actually taught, how His teachings relate to our lives today and to what has become known to us as Christianity, there is a lot of information to catch up on. Much has been withheld from us intentionally and some lost in the sands of time so to speak.

 Today there is so much new information that Bible Scholars now have translated from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Scrolls, as well as other letters and documents that have literally been unearthed, found in caves or buried in jars in the sand in the last 200 years. Most of these treasures have finally been made available for translation and study. Many of these documents appear to challenge the history we have been taught about Jesus, his early Jewish followers, including Mary of Magdalene, our own Christian heritage, as well as the history of the Old Testament.

 
Even a casual exploration into the documents reveals that it is the winners who write history  and not surprisingly they write it their way. Scholars have found that the viewpoint of the successful majority (or minority with the strongest army) has dominated all traditional accounts of the origin of Christianity as well as Judaism and Islam. In the Gospels, Jesus often refers to God as ‘Spirit.’


What did he mean when he spoke of ‘spiritual realms’ and the presence of Spirit in our lives?
 


The term 
‘Spirit’ has been used throughout the world for many thousands of years to point our attention toward a wide variety of experiences, and a wide variety of assumptions and beliefs based at least partially on those experiences. In ancient tribal traditions, people claimed to experience ‘spirits’ associated with almost everything in their world.  Based on tribal folklore, there were tree spirits and deer spirits and water spirits and wind spirits.

 The whole universe was seen as populated and controlled by an ‘invisible spirit world’ back in ancient days.  These 
‘spirits’ interacted with human beings, sometimes cooperating, sometimes causing problems for the tribe. To further complicate the situation, priests, priestesses, witch doctors and shamans claimed to have the power to influence the spirits to do good for the tribe or perhaps to do harm to their enemies.

 There was a time when God was a woman but from very early times, there seems to have developed powerful masculine priestly cults determined to take over and completely rule the minds and hearts of the community by using fear of physical and spiritual danger to manipulate people’s beliefs and behavior. The 
Priestly Cult eventually became dominant. In many areas, it completely eliminated the Goddess Cultures and all feminine symbols. This Priestly Cult dominates not only Christianity, but Judaism and Islam as well.

 Around 7 to 10 thousand years ago, the ruling
 Priestly Cults in many major societies began to believe in a higher order of spirit participation in the universe.  These spirits were labeled ‘gods’.  By the time Jesus was born, many societies around the world had evolved to where they believed in a ‘pantheon of higher-order gods – the sun god, the moon god, a god who controlled the wind, a god who controlled fertility, and powerful gods of war’. Along with these new masculine gods came a new order of religious leaders who claimed to have power to interact with and influence these higher-order gods.

 These gods were said to live in the heavens above, not on Earth.  But each god was said to have its own individual spirit and this spirit had powers to move invisibly here on Earth and the power to influence the physical world. Through such invisible spirit movement and action, each god could touch a human beings heart and mind as well as impact events of the physical world. Not only in Greece, Rome and Egypt but also in China, the Americas and elsewhere, these gods (and their related priests) ruled the human populace for thousands of years. There were a few nice gods, but the emphasis in these cultures seems to have been on seriously mean, angry masculine gods that needed to be constantly appeased often with blood sacrifices which was also a convenient way to eliminate any opposition. (It is the gods will that you be sacrificed.)  Historically, people in general seemed to have been much more afraid of the spirit world than they were soothed and helped constructively by it.
Then something quite new began to emerge in the Near East. A tiny Semitic tribe called the Israelites (seekers of God) evolved a tradition that believed in and experienced not a bunch of spirits or pantheon of gods and goddesses, but one ultimate, infinite, Father God, the Creator, EL. This father/god is often reflected in the Old Testament as a ‘Mean, angry God who instructs the Israelites to kill their enemies, all their animals and salt their ground so nothing ever grow there again.’ In some writings of the Old Testaments this ‘Father God’ is said to be as tender as a “Mother comforting her child.”


Why the inconsistency?


This is because the Old Testament like the New Testament was written 
‘looking back’ at history by people who were promoting a particular viewpoint. The Old Testament is actually a collection of Israelite, Jewish stories and stories absorbed from other cultures. (The northern kingdom of Israel fell in 722B.C. to the Assyrians who launched a massive invasion and carried off many of the most talented the people into exile where they lost their identity. They are known as the 10 lost tribes. The southern kingdom falls to the Babylonians in 587B.C. and the original temple of Solomon was destroyed at that time.  Some of the southern people who became known as Jews were the people who were taken into Babylonian exile for 70 years, who retained their cultural identity and belief in One Father Creator God and who then were allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem. They returned from this period of exile with a developed language and began writing the documents that would be the beginning of the Old Testament.) Many parts of these documents were not factual history but actually stories borrowed from Egypt, AssyriaBabylon and Persia. It also contained poems, songs, and allegedly an accurate history as well as laws, moral and ethical rules that reflected the masculine Priestly Cult of those foreign cultures. It also included animal and human sacrifice and the prophecies centered around this returning ‘remnant’ being commanded by God to rebuild the temple and to restore Israel’s greatness thus fulfilling Gods promise that they are the chosen people and ruler (actual translation is ‘way-shower’) of all nations. Only those who had been taken into exile and returned to rebuild Jerusalem were to be called ‘Jews.’ The people like the family of Jesus and others who were from the north and other areas not a part of this conquest were seen as ‘lesser and not fit to be called Jews.’

The writing that resulted had 3 main parts: 
The Law (the Torah), The Prophets, The Writings. In the time of Jesus, there was no ‘Bible’ and only the first two parts of the ‘Jewish Writings’ had become sacred. This is reflected in the New Testament phrase where Jesus refers to these writings as ‘The Law and The Prophets.’ ‘The Writings’ had not been finalized yet, though parts of it, especially the Psalms were clearly well known and considered sacred.  For the vast majority of peasants, the Torah and the Prophets, etc. and what later became the Bible (a Greek word meaning ‘Library of Books’) would not have been read. It would have been ‘heard.’ As Jesus is often quoted as saying, “You have heard it said.”


Why?


Because most peasants couldn’t read and these sacred scrolls had to be reproduced by hand and were expensive. In the addition sacred writings were written in 
classical Hebrew and reading them was a highly technical skill.  Also, an interesting fact is that in the time of Jesus, what became known as ‘The Bible,’ had no chapter numbers and no verse division, there was no separation between words or sentences, no punctuation, and no vowels.  Even locating a passage in a scroll would have been difficult if you knew the language and so the people depended completely on the Priests of Jerusalem, the Scribes, local Rabbi’s and such to teach them. And they listened intently because if you didn’t know and obey the law as they dictated it you were labeled a sinner and outcast and you could be put to death by stoning. Today we know that almost all of the Priests, and there were over 1000 of them in Jerusalem operating the Temple Complex, with its money changing trade and animal sacrifices happening seven days a week, 24 hours a day, fueling their various industries like the leather industry.
In contrast, Jesus spent most of his ministry in the area around the Sea of Galilee in the north, an area well known for opposition to the Temple Priests, the Roman Conquerers and the Jewish Rulers who were seen as collaborators with Rome.

THE JEWISH JESUS AND THE SPIRIT FILLED HEART OF JUDAISM - LESSON PART 2

 Bible Scholars who have now translated and absorbed the newly discovered scrolls and tests tell us that the 
Spirit filled heart of ancient Judaism consisted of two primary beliefs which we can see clearly reflected in the teachings of Jesus.

 1. First: 
Absolute Reality or God is actually a double thread with an invisible side charged with energy and power that is the Eternal Source of this temporal, changing world and a visible side seen and experienced through the five ordinary senses. This double thread theme is reflected in numerous Biblical expressions. Because we lacked information these have often been misunderstood. Instead of seeing it is all God regardless of whether the energy is seen or unseen, the difference perceived between the invisible spirit of God and visible spirit of God was mislabeled as sacred & profaneholy & unholyclean & uncleanhealed & unhealeddead & undeadformed & unformed, the kingdom of heaven & the kingdom of this world. To Jesus and the Prophets these terms were used to describe the two sides of Reality and were not meant to render a judgmental rating. This perspective was in direct contrast to the masculine domination cultural viewpoint of the Priestly Cult, which I will refer to as he did and as they became known in the New Testament as the Pharisees and Scribes.

2. Second and vitally important to understand is: The world of Spirit isn’t something to just think about or believe in. That is not enough to transform you and your life. The world of Spirit or God and all that God is is to be personally experienced and expressed. The world of Spirit and the world of ordinary experience aren’t separate and can be seen intersecting in the experience of individuals throughout history.  People who experience communion (common union or oneness) with the world of Spirit become charismatics; mediators, prophets, lawgivers and mystics.

When we think of a charismatic person we tend to think of someone with personal or animal magnetism but to Jesus and the ancient teachings he represented, a charismatic was someone who knew the world of Spirit first hand. According to Bible Scholar Edmond Jacob“The special characteristic of the Israelite revelation of God is that God singles them out and makes a covenant with them. According to the Old Testament understanding of Jesus, the Israelites, as the ‘chosen ones’ are to become ‘a light to the nations.’  Each one of us is being ‘called out’ to be an expression of all the God is right where we are in the moment. The history of Israel is not ordinary history.  It is history with the acts of God mixed in – thus it is ‘holy history.’  The events of this history are not just normal events, explainable by the normal theories of cause and effect.  Rather they are events into which God has inserted itself, making them manifestations of Divine purpose.” The ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary when you are aware ‘it is all God.’
This view of holy history can be represented as an arrow plunging toward its goal which the Israelites saw as the day of Yahweh being made manifest on earth as it is in heaven.  It began with Creation, Abraham, Moses in the Sinai, the Prophets, Exile to Babylonia, Return to rebuild Jerusalem and onto the fulfillment as the Day of Yahweh in every person. It is Jesus’ new story of the Israelite Journey to Freedom and the Promised Land in His telling of the Story of the Prodigal Son, leaving his Father’s house, falling from grace, awakening, returning home and thus fulfilling the Prodigal Journey. This journey is completed with each answered prayer and Jesus taught that every prayer is answered in exactly the same way regardless of appearance. We must become the physical embodiment on earth of all that we know God is as Spirit. However, as Christianity evolved in Greece and Rome, they built in error upon this concept. Rather than replacing it, they altered it: Creation, Abraham, Moses in the Sinai, the Prophets, Exile to Babylonia and Return to rebuild Jerusalem, then the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and onto the fulfillment of the Day of Yahweh which becomes the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ as the only Son of God and then on into ‘His one holy and true Church.’

Are you aware that the idea of another dimension or level of reality in addition to the visible world was the worldview of virtually every culture before ours?



Are you aware that the cultural tradition in which Jesus lived took this for granted? 



Its tradition centered on Spirit filled mediators who bridged the two worlds.  Spirit filled mediators like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus walked between two worlds, the seen and the unseen. This tradition goes back through the Old Testament Prophets over 3000 years to the founder and fathers of Israel.  Israel’s history is one of over comings; the kingdom of Spirit overcoming the limits of this world.  The Exodus and the return from exile prove that the world of Spirit intersects with this physical world at many points.

The Temple of Jerusalem represented the navel of the earth symbolically or metaphysically connecting the two worlds of Spirit and Matter. It was here that the Prophet Isaiah momentarily saw into the other world. He had a vision of God upon the divine throne, surrounded by strange, unearthly six-winged creatures. But he did not simply see into the other world; he was, in a sense, in it for he became a participant in the scene.

In the centuries before and after Jesus, the charismatic phenomenon continued in a number of Jewish holy people known for their relationship to God, the effectiveness of their prayers and renown as healers and rainmakers. According to the Book of Acts, Paul was a healer and channel for power from the world of Spirit.  His conversion on the road to Damascus is best understood as a charismatic experience. (i.e. A breakthrough of God at a crucial point of history through a Prophet who then affects that history.)

Paul wrote about his own journey into the world of Spirit and describes a reality having several layers. He talks about seeing and experiencing a world filled with realities that can’t be described in language drawn from this world and the uncertainty of whether the experience was in the physical body or out of it. He writes about his experience like this. “I know a man who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; and he heard things which cannot be told, which man may not utter.”

 As a long time Meditator I have had many mystical experiences that would be hard to share in words with others who do not have a similar frame of reference. As a Unity Minister, I have been blessed to hear so many stories of impossible healings and happenings, including the suspension of time as we know it. I am certain that as you read this that you too have had at least one, if not many such experiences that you have not dared to share with anyone because you thought they would think that you are crazy.

We are conditioned to doubt and then to discount such experiences. If we truly believed in our Oneness with an all powerful, all loving, Source of everything and lived that as our truth, would we fear and allow ourselves to be forced to obey the powers of earth who tell us what to do, how we must act to stay safe, and what we have to give to them for their inspired leadership and protection and to maintain their lifestyle because they are somehow ‘more’ than we are?

 Jesus taught people how to be really free. It wasn’t just insurrection to Rome that caused them to fear and kill him. It was the fear of all the dominant power brokers of the physical world that contrived to eliminate him, his true teachings, his family and his followers. But, in the end they failed and always will because what He taught was the Truth. We are One in God and the light and freedom of this truth cannot be hidden forever under a bushel basket.


I feel
a real kinship and responsibility to everyone who came before us and who tried to preserve these teachings for us by burying them in caves and holes in the earth hoping that they would remain safe until humankind grew into a ‘saner, more just, and compassionate time.’


Do you?


The universe doesn’t fit into a cup.  Likewise, the invisible level as the fullness of God is beyond the human mind’s ability to fully comprehend. If anything is to be communicated from this higher reality, it must be communicated either by metaphor or analogy to what we know in the ordinary world.  So Jesus said, “God is like a Father, mother, king, shepherd or lover because these things can be experienced. God is also spoken of as like fire and light. But God isn’t literally any of these things. God is more. God is the Source of all things.  The idea of the mystery of God is impossible to translate into a single concept or physical experience.


How would you explain God to a child or your experience of God to a close friend?



In Genesis we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  If you just translate words literally, you get words, but not the meaning.  It doesn’t mean, in the beginning like there was a beginning.  It’s saying that we’re dealing with something beyond time and beyond what human reasoning can conceptualize. And although God is spoken of as up in heaven, a mystic understands that God is everywhere present, immanent and transcendent.

In Unity we talk about God existing in three realms of being, Spirit, Mind, Body but they are all the same God substance just like Ice, Water and Steam are three forms of the same substance, H20. A mystic (a spirit filled Mediator like Jesus) understands that God and the world of Spirit aren’t remote, but personal.  It’s all around us and includes not only us but is populated by angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim.

Today, in our Western World most people are literally minded and the notion of another
 world or dimension of reality and of people who mediate between the two worlds is alien to the way most people have been conditioned and programmed to see.

Though 
remnants of a spiritual worldview remain, the dominant worldview is one dimensional and many people see themselves as one dimensional. They are just bodies.  Unfortunately, too many people, what is real is the material, visible world of time and space, which can be known through the five ordinary senses and operates under the law of cause and effect rather than the law of GRACE.  This causes people to think such things as “Watch out for number one. And I’ve gotta get mine.”

As we grow up in our everyday culture, the process of learning this worldview is largely unconscious. When
 unusual things occur, we are taught to just explain them away and people who journey into the other world are explained away as “out of touch, hallucinating, or on something.”

Within the modern framework, frequent
 and vivid experiences with another reality such as Isaiah described or as recorded in The Book of Revelation mark a person as clinically psychotic. And books, including the Bible, that report paranormal happenings are ridiculed, ignored, or explained away because they violate our culture’s worldview sense of what’s real.

Understanding the tradition of Spirit-filled Mediators of the ancient world like Isaiah is the first step in understanding the what the historical Jesus was really like and what he really taught.

It also sets a firm foundation for beginning your own spiritual journey.

It will also help you to understand the longstanding conflicts in the Middle East where after thousands of years Judaism’s followers remain convinced that God recognized, selected and prepared them to be His chosen ones; not for special privileges but for special service and a special mission in this world. They believe that there will always be persecution for righteousness sake but the meaning behind all suffering as well as all the miracles will be revealed somewhere among the mountains where the “finger of God wrote the Ten commandments, Abraham entertained angels, Elijah confounded and conquered the priests of Baal, Saul was anointed king, David sang psalms, Solomon built the temple and where Isaiah saw God and prophesied about the coming of a savior who would again free them from bondage.”

This was the social world that 
Jesus was born into and understanding His life, teachings, death, resurrection, and the movements that continue to carry His name begin with the awareness that He was deeply Jewish and remained so all of his life.

He didn’t intend to establish a new religion.  He was a 
Jewish Rabbi who saw himself as having a mission within Judaism.  He spoke as a Jew to other Jews.  His early followers were Jewish. The historical Jesus was a Spirit person.  A spirit person is different than what we often think of as a holy person, which implies piousness or a moral quality like the Pharisees. A Spirit person is a mediator between the appearing two worlds or realms; between the world of invisible Spirit and visible matter.


Do you strive for holiness or wholeness in Spirit?


All of the Gospels (and the book of Acts) connect the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to his Baptism by John the Baptist. We will explore that next in our lesson: “The Lost Art of Baptism.”






 
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