Saturday, July 31, 2004

A reader responds to the assertions of a devout Christian

Again, without comment:

Central Mystery of Christian Faith
[ SATURDAY, JULY 31, 2004 12:00:00 AM ]
The most well-known mystery in Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is said that three men died on crosses in occupied Palestine sometime during the fourth decade of the Christian era. The carrying out of a death sentence in this manner was a relatively routine matter. In this case, all three were convicted as disturbers of the Roman peace. On one cross, however, the Romans affixed a sign: "The King of the Jews", but in contempt — yet the "king" has lived on for more than 2,000 years. On the basis of the experience of the resurrection, his disciples would see the life and death of Jesus in a whole new light. The message of the New Testament is the message of the resurrection.

With this belief, everything fell into place. For his disciples, Jesus was Christ, the Anointed One of God. The titles given to him — 'Son of Man', the 'Suffering Servant', the 'Son of God', the 'Lord', and 'Son of David' — became confessional, and were used in prayer and worship, thereby gaining a metaphysical and theological character. The resurrection is now seen as a saving event because Jesus was handed over to death for the sins of humankind and raised up for the justification of all human beings.

Once the resurrection led to acknowledging the divinity of Jesus, it helped us view his birth as the incarnation, as the Word of God. In fact, the crucifixion and the resurrection have a deep connection. Jesus's life is now seen as the culmination of a life of obedient humiliation within the human condition.

"Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God as something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, and that too, on a cross", said St Paul. A forgiving Jesus initiated a new form of table fellowship between God and humankind. He promised salvation. One of the mysteries of Christianity is that Jesus came to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God — that is, to exercise His divine power on our behalf. The one who proclaimed the Kingdom in his own lifetime, became the one who proclaimed it after his death. The early Church gave its own testimony of faith in the risen Lord and all else in the New Testament flows from that — forward and backward. The redemptive value of the cross assumes meaning in the light of the resurrection. "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it does not produce fruit".

Christians understand the final redemptive power of God already at work, realising itself in the individual's experience of reality, in his relationships with other persons, and with social and political institutions.

Jesus's earlier life with Joseph, a carpenter, as foster father, was quiet, hidden and a silent preparation for his life's mission. His public life began only in his 30s and the power with which he preached God's Kingdom, the miracles he performed, the people he cured and healed is linked to this central mystery of Christian faith, which is the resurrection. From this mystery, Christianity moves forward to the exaltation of Christ and backwards to the crucifixion, passion, minis-try, early life, birth and even pre-existence of Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus and other related mysteries of the Christian faith have inspired millions to believe that they too will rise from the dead. As it happened to the first born of the new creation, so it will happen to all humankind.



Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Editor
Times of India
By e-mail


Janina Gomes, in her 'Central Mystery of the Christian Faith' (Speaking Tree – 31st July 2004), fails to unravel the greatest Christian mystery of all: the myth of 'Jesus Christ' himself! For, as it now appears from contemporaneous sources, no single person known by that name ever existed!

'Jesus' is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew 'Yehoshua' (literally, 'Jehovah Delivers'), while 'Christ' is the more recent form of the Hellenic 'Christos', mistakenly given by early Greek translators of the Aramaic Testaments to the Jewish expectation of 'messiah' or 'saviour'.

The crucifixion and resurrection that form the very basis of the faith are fraught with inconsistency and controversy. It seems there were several people strutting around in Palestine at that time claiming to be 'messiahs'.

Barabbas, who was apparently tried along with 'Jesus Christ' but acquitted in deference to the wishes of the Jews, also enjoyed the prefix 'Jesus' according to an older version of the gospel of Matthew. In Hebrew, 'Bar' means 'son of' and 'abba' means 'father' or, in a wider sense, 'God'. So, there were two people with the same claim! Is Ms. Gomes sure who was released and who was crucified? The Quran states at 4:157 that 'Jesus' was never crucified! 'Resurrection', according to Gnostic writings (now bolstered by the long-suppressed Dead Sea Scrolls) was strictly meant symbolically, NOT literally.

We need to urgently reconcile ourselves to the truth that the record was doctored and suppressed – some even invented - to suit Pauline 'Christianity'. Otherwise, like Ms. Gomes in her otherwise convoluted piece, one would be forced to engage in verbal calisthenics to fit inconvenient fact to untenable doctrine!

Indeed, wasn't it Pope Leo X (1513-21 C.E.) who is reputed to have remarked, "It has served us well, this myth of Christ"!

Yours sincerely
Bhalchandrarao C. Patwardhan

No comments: