Communicating the Christ
“Jesus the Jew,” from Christianity: A History, British Broadcasting Company (2010)
Yes, I’m that one—the one who wishes everybody a “Merry Christmas” during that special time of year, trusting that Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians all appreciate my warm and joyous spirit.
Then I watched “Jesus the Jew,” the first episode in a BBC series called Christianity: A History. Let’s just say, I’m rethinking the way I express my merriment about Christ to others.
The episode, is hosted and narrated by Howard Jacobson, a renowned Jewish writer who sheds light on the longstanding conflict between Jews and Christians. He explains the Jewish origin of Christianity and asserts that Jesus wanted to renew Judaism — not start a new religion.
Jacobson also cites Christian misinterpretations of the Bible, including the original meaning of the term “Messiah.” Contrary to the traditional Christian definition, it doesn’t mean God or even Son of God but one who prepares the way for God. While Jews respect Jesus for his teachings, they do not believe he was the Messiah in any sense of the word — let alone the Christian sense. According to Jewish interpretation of Old Testament writings, Jesus did not fulfill prophecy.
What’s more, Jacobson discusses what he considers inaccuracies in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. For example, because Nazareth was a Jewish city it would not make sense that Mary and Joseph (Jews) would have been forced to return to Bethlehem. Jacobson posits that this was an invention of the author.
Something that especially struck me was Jacobson’s analysis of Christians’ depictions of Jews as enemies. Judas is seen as a Jewish demon and all Jews are seen as monstrous crucifiers of Jesus — thus they have been made outcasts throughout history. It’s the snowball of Biblical misinterpretation resulting in continual condemnation of Jews by Christians that has given “Christ” a negative connotation for Jews. In fact, they have a hard time accepting Jesus as anything because he has come to represent that which opposes Judaism — and yet Jesus was a Jew.
Even more interesting to me was a question posed later in the episode: If the crucifixion was necessary to prove Jesus was the Messiah, could Judas have worked with Jesus to fulfill prophecy?
This documentary illumines history as Jacobson visits holy landmarks, interviews scholars, and presents new views of the Scriptures. While I don’t agree with all the opinions presented, I was forced to consider my own perspective of Christ Jesus and the way it affects others. Specifically, when I use the word “Christ,” what does it mean to the listener? While, as a Christian Scientist, I might use the term to indicate Truth or God’s holy message to humanity, to Jews it may only indicate the hate with which they’ve been treated by Christians.
So, as I ponder how to better communicate the love and joy I feel due to a scientific understanding of the Christ, I remember that Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Human language can repeat only an infinitesimal part of what exists.” 1 While I’m determined to find a happy medium between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” I know that words cannot express the Christ. What matters is spiritualization of thought and action—a language everyone understands.RSS feed
Topics: Interfaith | Tags: Biblical interpretation, Messiah