Monday, February 25, 2008

the "ONLY Son of God"?

I’ll get back to Goddess in the Bible, but first I address Florian’s comments because they state precisely my reason for writing God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. In one of his many comments, Florian wrote that a core teaching of Christianity
is that Jesus Christ is the unique, divine Son of God. . . . then it makes sense to think of Christian revelation as some sort of 'special' or 'unique' revelation, some 'final' or 'ultimate' revelation of God to humanity.
Here we have it—the belief I take issue with. The evidence in my book comes from researchers within our own tradition, and I urge readers to use my bibliography for extended research of their own.

Hearing “Son of God” applied to Jesus only, the idea attained an absolute meaning for later generations that was never intended by the first Jesus followers who used it (Jesus himself never did). My direct statement that Jesus is not God seems blasphemous to literal believers, but I notice Catholic theologians carefully avoid saying Jesus is God.

The gospel reading yesterday morning was John 4:4-42, the story in which Jesus asks for a drink from a Samaritan woman. Astonished, she exclaims,
You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?
This story beautifully illustrates the Nazarene’s revolutionary acceptance of women. In his homily, Fr. William Skudlarek said no other individual in the gospels has a conversation with Jesus as long as this woman.
After centuries of exclusively male leadership, the Holy Spirit may be at work to shift the Church into a new gear.
But I’ve digressed—back to belief in Jesus’ unique divinity. To the woman’s mention of The Messiah, Jesus declares,
I am he, the one who is speaking to you.
According to Skudlarek,
“In unambiguous terms Jesus reveals himself to this woman as the one who makes known the living God.”
Jesus “makes known” or "reveals" God. Note the difference from Florian’s statement.

The Gospel of John is replete with “I AM” sayings, using the same words the Greek translators use in Exodus 3:14. For two thousand years, Christians have been marinating in language assigning privileged status to our tradition.
Thoughtful Christian educators no longer repeat the exclusive claims, but few dare to challenge them directly because they fear censure. I can do it because I have no status in the Church.

The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart was censured in 1329 for inclusive statements like these:
When the Father begets his Son in me, I am that Son and no other.... Thus, we are all in the Son and are the Son.
The Father gives birth to his Son without cease, and I say more: he gives birth to me his Son and the same Son.
Here is rich spiritual food, best understood when we feel free to substitute this:
She gives birth to me, her Daughter.

7 comments:

Florian said...

We are just going to run around in circles, Jeanette. But, what the heck, I'll try to get some things straight.

It goes without saying that you, Jeanette, do not believe that Jesus claimed to be the unique, divine Son of God. But how do you know this? How do we know anything that happened 2000 years ago with absolute certainty? You continue to speak as if this divinity question is closed.

One can say, "Do the research." But when I do research I am always led to a different conclusion from yours.

Again, I have alert reader's to some misleading statements. Jeanette says that the absolute meaning of titles of Jesus were "never intended by the first followers of Jesus." This misleads one to think that Peter, Paul, James, and John never intended that meaning.

One of the earliest Christian confessions is that "Jesus is Lord." It was so important that the title "Lord" must have meant something. The meaning is made clear by Paul: "There is one God, the Father... and one Lord, Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 8:6) The ONE Lord must be referring to the Lord of the Universe. So we have here a divine title being attributed to Jesus. To say otherwise not only would be misleading, but apparently would be false.

I guess it all depends on what we mean by "first followers" of Jesus. I would think that Jeanette is in part referring to hypothetical early Christians who only focused on the sayings of Jesus and not his redemptive work. But they are pretty much just that: hypothetical.

I end with a quote from the book God is not Three Guys... "From a historical perspective, it is preposterous to suppose that the Nazarene considered himself God." (p. 150). Basically, Jeanette is saying what has been oft said and oft criticized: that the canons of historical method exclude from consideration the suggestion that Jesus had a divine consciousness. If this is the line of thinking, then the conclusion that Jesus is not divine is not a conclusion of any research at all. The idea is ruled out before research is even begun.

-Florian

Jeanette said...

Yes, this is going around in circles.
All of Florian's points are answered in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. How each person receives the evidence is another matter. We see in Florian's comments the power of myth.

Kathleen said...

Florian, I found Jeanette’s book to be uplifting, inspiring, informative and immensely helpful in my faith journey. You disagree about the subject of the divinity of Jesus. Jeanette makes a careful analysis of the mythical Jesus versus the historical Jesus backed with extensive research. I find it fascinating that there are so many biblical scholars who agree that Jesus was not God and that he never said that he was.

I had a Catholic school education from the time of my elementary school years through my undergraduate degree. During all of those years, I was never exposed to any thought or discussion other than the Catechism version of Jesus taught by the Church, never the human Jesus who came to open our minds and hearts to love one another. Jeanette’s book really speaks more to the essential message of Jesus than to all of the so-called followers of him today who use his name to justify the exclusion or denial of rights to many people based on their ethnicity, religious beliefs or lifestyles. From what I learned about him, I believe Jesus would endorse inclusivity rather than exclusivity, which applies to the subtitle of Jeanette’s book: Cherishing Christianity without Its Exclusive Claims.

I’m in a faith group consisting of several people who have been scholars in this area as well as a few who have been ordained. It’s illuminating to me that they do not question Jesus’ divinity. They do not believe he was God. However, this is not what is heard from the pulpit. But the Church hasn’t always been in tune or kept up with researchers, intellectuals or scientists of the day. In 1642, the pope banned a public funeral for Galileo when he died because he had caused “the greatest scandal in all of Christendom.” This was even though prior to his death, he swore before a Roman Inquisitional panel of cardinals that what he’d written was heretical and contrary to the bible and he had to state, knowing he did not believe, that the sun moves and the earth is the center of the universe, and it doesn’t move. The Catholic Church finally offered an apology for the way it treated Galileo, 350 years later.

Many of our “beliefs” that were established by Emperor Constantine (the pope wasn’t there) at the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century came about as a way to end civil unrest and yet we adhere to them without question today. But there are writers like Jeanette who have studied theology and who help us to reflect, question, meditate more deeply and grow in faith. We are fortunate that those in authority in the Catholic Church no longer preside over Inquisitions and there are a growing number of religious academics who are also becoming aware of the mounting biblical research that backs Jeanette’s work.

Obviously the appeal of Jesus has made a significant impact on the lives of millions for two thousand years. I believe we are all sons and daughters of God and God dwells in each of us. Today I celebrate Jesus in all his humanness, for all that I have in common with him and how I want to be more like him in his love and compassion and for all and his passion to bring peace and justice to this world.

elastico said...

All Christians believe the Apostles Creed, in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, that he died for our sins, and were are saved by grace. If you don’t believe all these things, you’re not a Christian. You, then, are not a Christian. When you still go to Mass you present a false witness to others and of yourself, and thus are either not a grown-up(I'll define Catholicism my own way)or schizophrenic.

Kathleen said...

So, let me understand, Elastico. Jesus was a Jew and there is no record of him saying he wanted to start another religion, but YOU are telling me that I cannot call myself a Christian or a Catholic. Jesus did not write any Creed. Some men got together who never met Jesus and came up with something that is very important to you. I’m glad that it has meaning for you. But if I choose to go to Mass, I think Jesus would not be so cruel as to call me names such as mentally ill or that I’m presenting false witness to myself or others, or not grown up, etc. In fact, he would not be so exclusive and he’d welcome all people to Mass. It is a wonderful communal celebration. You use the word “all” twice in your blog. “ALL Christians” and “all believe” and I hate to disillusion you, but there are others like me in the pews.

elastico said...

Kathleen--What would you say if a Republican showed up at the Democratic convention this fall and said I believe the platform of the Democrats is utterly false. They are wrong on abortion, the environment, welfare, the military, and the courts, but I like coming to their convention because it is a nice communal celebration and I expect my voice to be heard. I dare say they would think you had a screw loose or had an identity crisis. Also your knowledge of Catholic history regarding science and mathematics shows profound ignorance.

Florian said...

Kathleen, I am going to guess that I am younger than you as well as Jeanette, so I think I have a different take on this. I am sorry you were never exposed to the human Jesus in your Catholic school education. I only remember the post-Vatican II era, when the church changed the way they cathechize children. So I was well aware growing up that Jesus was human. I actually feel I missed out on, what I guess we might call, the more rigid, conservative catechesis of the pre-Vatican II era. I've gotten to know that pre-Vatican II "ethos" more as an adult, so it is still somewhat new to me. It might seem like a more rigid, inflexible theology, but it helped me to better organize my thoughts about the Catholic faith. I much prefer that to doctrinal uncertainty, or even doctrinal chaos.

It is interesting, I really don't understand why people like Jeanette's book so much, though I am not surprised that there are people who agree with it. Whether the information in her book is correct or not, I can honestly say I did not find the book uplifting, or inspiring, or informative, or immensely helpful in my faith journey.

I know that Jeanette "makes a careful analysis of the mythical Jesus versus the historical Jesus backed with extensive research." I am saying that the analysis has problems. In fact, I know it does.
There is a sentence in her book where she says the historical Jesus has been lost. But then she goes on to tell us who the real historical Jesus was, as if he was not lost after all. She rejects the bulk of the New Testament data and concludes that real Jesus must be found somewhere else, like the Gospel of Thomas and Q. But it's a theory in need of a lot more evidence. But there are a lot of scholars which champion the theory because they want to get rid of orthodoxy. My impression in reading the book is that because there are scholars that champion it, Jeanette feels comfortable jumping to the conclusion that it is correct.

I guess, I'll stop there.

-Florian