Wednesday, April 02, 2014
[Part of series, 36 "Christian" and Secular Myths You Should Know]
Most people make this common and unexamined assumption that Jesus Christ was what we call a “Christian” and, in fact, the very first Christian, the one for which the religion was named. Travel back into the first century, however, step into the sandals of anyone who knew or encountered Jesus of Nazareth and you will realize how untrue this is. As history, the New Testament, and other sacred texts attest, Jesus was a Jewish teacher or Rabbi living in first-century Palestine who closely followed the tenets and traditions of the Jewish prophets and law. The difference was, not that he represented a new faith, but that he brought a revolutionary way of interpreting an existing faith—pre-rabbinic Judaism of the first century.
His way was to interpret the Torah in light of its very own love ethic, making love the priority over law, while closely following the voices of the Jewish prophets. These were reforming prophets who identified corruption within the Temple sacrificial system, foresaw its demise, and announced a future new covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham. Jesus followed their lead with his own authority and called for the original purpose of the Jewish community—to be a light to draw Gentiles (non-Jews) to the one true God of justice and love. Jesus was not a Christian. He was a Jew calling for radical reform of the Jewish faith while opening the doors for non-Jews to enter into relationship with God in the spirit of a new Jewish covenant that made the Jerusalem Temple system obsolete. His first followers were all Jews. They believed he was the “anointed one” (the meaning of ‘Christ’) whom the prophets had foretold, not someone who would abolish Judaism and begin a new religion, but someone who would reform it.