In some ways, this is a hopeful article, written by a Jewish Rabbi; in other ways, it is a loss due to misunderstanding of Jesus and who he was. It's called: Silver: Is it time for Jews to rescue Jesus from identity theft? by Rabbi Barry Silver. The Rabbi seems to want Jews to feel free to celebrate the love, peace and joy that is supposed to accompany Christmas - and to do that by "reclaiming" Jesus as one of their own, even expressing his belief that "pharisaic Judaism" is actually the religion of Jesus. (Oddly though, he expresses doubt as to whether Jesus really existed.) We'll blog about these ideas below, but here are a couple of snippets from the arfticle:
"The "pure" teachings of this rabbi named Jesus, if he actually existed, and if the gospel accounts are to be believed, was Pharisaic Judaism, with its emphasis on love, peace, social justice, the poor, and resistance against Roman tyranny; with eschatological Essene influences which viewed the horrors of Roman occupation as a portent of the imminent arrival of the Messiah. His classic statement "Love thy neighbor as thyself" was not claimed to be original, and was merely a quotation from Leviticus. Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah or any part of the godhead. Stripped of Greek and Roman mythology, whose legendary heroes were born on December 25 of a male god and a female human virgin, who rose from the dead in the spring time, was surrounded by 12 disciples, and was murdered by the authorities, often by crucifixion, we see in Jesus, a typical rabbi living in Roman times. Scholars notice the mythological nature of the birth and death narratives of Jesus as later additions, due to the omission of these claims from earlier gospels, and the glaring and numerous contradictions among these legends.
"If the Jewish people were to reclaim Jesus, stripped of the anti-Semitic, mythological aspects concocted by identity thieves, then those who regard his birth as the source of love, joy, and hope in the world and in their lives, could celebrate his birth with family gatherings, music and festivities, in a pure form, and thus return to the religion of Jesus, i.e. Judaism, rather than the religion about Jesus."
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An Epochal Revelation
The Urantia Book is an epochal revelation; it contains vital information that is designed to sidestep years and years of evolutionary progress in the churches and elsewhere. The book's revelations about the Kingdom, about Jesus' personal religion, about the nature of God, about our true history as a planet and as a people...these revelations are designed to help all mankind reach a new spiritual enlightenment in less time than we would without it. And this blog is here to help those of all earthly religions to adopt and embrace the information so freely given. Whether by following links provided in this blog, or simply by beginning to read the treasure that is The Urantia Book, the sincere reader/seeker will benefit.
First and foremost
This blog is not an attempt to come down on Judaism, nor on the sincerity of the Rabbi and his article. Most, if not all churches and religions contain a set of rules and regulations that have to be followed. The Catholic Church has a wide variety of rules covering most aspects of life, as does the Muslim faith, the Mormons, and others.
The Urantia Book clearly teaches that even though the rulers of the Jewish religion in Jesus' times rejected him and his new teachings - even though they ended up killing him for what they termed blasphemy; even so, the Jewish people are not to be condemned. They have suffered enough for the sins of their forebears:
175:2.1 The fact that the spiritual leaders and the religious teachers of the Jewish nation onetime rejected the teachings of Jesus and conspired to bring about his cruel death, does not in any manner affect the status of any individual Jew in his standing before God. And it should not cause those who profess to be followers of the Christ to be prejudiced against the Jew as a fellow mortal. The Jews, as a nation, as a sociopolitical group, paid in full the terrible price of rejecting the Prince of Peace. Long since they ceased to be the spiritual torchbearers of divine truth to the races of mankind, but this constitutes no valid reason why the individual descendants of these long-ago Jews should be made to suffer the persecutions which have been visited upon them by intolerant, unworthy, and bigoted professed followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who was, himself, a Jew by natural birth.
And the Jewish religion continues to be one of the world's great religions, even though its history is as checkered, complicated, and tainted as any other world religion.
But the good news is that no matter what religion you may follow - no matter how you follow, or don't follow those rules, Jesus pure teachings: "that man's whole duty is summed up in this one commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself" can help you live a better life and a life that is closer to God. These teachings can inform any earthly religion.
Who DOES Jesus belong to? What is his religion?
Jesus was born into Judaism; he was raised in Jewish schools and synagogues. He preached in temples and observed Jewish traditions for much of his life. But his mission was to upstep all of the traditions of all religions and simplify them all into this one teaching - this one gospel - that can be understood and embraced by anyone - not just those who follow a specific religion.
We do agree that Jesus has been hijacked by institutionalized churches - Christianity primarily - but this does not mean that he belongs to Judaism. Jesus and his teachings transcend any and all earthly religions. He can unify all of them, but he cannot be claimed by any... and that includes Christianity and Judaism
The teachings of The Urantia Book show clearly that in Jesus' later life and ministry, rather than being a part of Judaism, Jesus tried his best to enlighten that religion - to give the religion of his father, Joseph, what he had come to give them. But they would not have it.
At the end of the article above, the author calls Judaism the religion of Jesus, and Christianity the religion about Jesus. If, as the Rabbi says, Phrasaic Judaism is the religion of Jesus, reason tells us that he would not have been killed for teaching and practicing it.
It is easy to understand the Rabbi's frustration; however, he is laboring under the same errors that we have lived with for centuries, and it is that lack of understanding that stands in the way. Reading the real story of Jesus in The Urantia Book can dispel all of the error of all the centuries and can help the reader truly begin anew, holding Jesus and his teachings above all religious dogmatism.
The Urantia Book teaches that Christianity - and all of its sects - does constitute a religion about Jesus, but the only true religion of Jesus is the religion that he himself taught and practiced...not Judaism, but the religion of personal spiritual experience. And that religion truly can be called the greatest influence for unity and peace that the world has ever known, if only more people would discover and follow it - follow Jesus.
Read about Jesus' religion HERE.
I can sympathize with the Rabbi's intent - it would be good if Jews could once again embrace Jesus as one of their own and embrace his universal teachings of love. We can't fault the Rabbi's sincerity nor his intent, but we must question his conclusions.
A word about Pharisaic Judaism
"Pharasaic Judaism is, in these modern days, associated with Rabbinical Judaism: "distinguished by belief in Moses as "our Rabbi" and that God revealed the Torah in two parts, as both the Written and the Oral Torah. All the laws in the Written Torah are recorded only as part of a narrative describing God imparting these laws to Moses and commanding him to transmit them to the Jewish nation." Wikipedia
Although many people follow this form of Judaism, presuming that it is the religion of Jesus is incorrect; in fact, it was this very form of strict Judaism that Jesus tried so hard to soften and subdue as the bringer of a new kind of religion to mankind. He tried until the end to graft the new freedom of the personal religion of the Kingdom onto the old forms of law and rules, using new concepts and new paradigms of the loving heavenly Father, and family relationship...the brotherhood of all mankind.
As in Jesus day, Judaism remains a religion of laws and rules. Again, this is true of many religions, not just Judaism. Jesus, when sending the seventy out to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, emphasized the following, among other items:
163:4.7 6. Make clear to all faithful believers that the time for an open break with the religious leaders of the Jews at Jerusalem has now come.
7. Teach that man's whole duty is summed up in this one commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. (This they were to teach as man's whole duty in place of the 613 rules of living expounded by the Pharisees.)
613 rules of living! And the religion of Rabbinical or Pharisaic Judaism does not sound all that different today. While there may be more emphasis on peace and love, according to this wikipedia article, there are still nearly 300 rules in effect today. From the Wikipedia article referenced above::
Many of the mitzvot cannot be observed now, following the destruction of the Second Temple, although they still retain religious significance. According to one standard reckoning, there are 77 positive and 194 negative commandments that can be observed today, of which there are 26 commands that apply only within the Land of Israel. Furthermore, there are some time-related commandments from which women are exempt (examples include shofar, sukkah, lulav, tzitzit and tefillin). Some depend on the special status of a person in Judaism (such as kohanim), while others apply only to men or only to women.
Again, many religions are hampered by a wealth of rules, but a lack of simplicity. This is not a fault to be placed, but merely an observation. Only the religion of Jesus can simplify and unify all religions
Jesus stands above all earthly religions
Jesus cannot be claimed - or reclaimed - by any religion, nor any chosen people. In fact, the "chosen people" idea that has accompanied the Jewish religion is not valid when regarding Jesus' incarnation and teachings.
Jesus' teachings were for the individual; The kingdom was to be found in the heart of each individual, spreading from all hearts to affect all the world...not just one particular group.
And so, while we want just what the Rabbi wants - to gather together as one spiritual family and celebrate the Master's simple messages of love, joy and hope - this will never be accomplished in a traditional, institutionalized church - unless and until that church has evolved to something more along these lines:
103:5.12 A religious group should be able to enjoy the liberty of freethinking without having to become "freethinkers." There is great hope for any church that worships the living God, validates the brotherhood of man, and dares to remove all creedal pressure from its members.
In the end, though, I see this outreach by a Jewish Rabbi to encourage the Jewish people to think again about Jesus, as a positive step. And I hope that more people of all religions might do the same.
Reading The Urantia Book, and in particular the life and teachings of Jesus will help any seeker for truth and unity find this wonderful promise at the end of his/her search:
170:5.8 But doubt not, this same kingdom of heaven which the Master taught exists within the heart of the believer, will yet be proclaimed to this Christian church, even as to all other religions, races, and nations on earth—even to every individual.