What is the definition of a Christian? Is he/she simply the one who goes to Church, or is he/she the one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ?
On the surface it might seem that the two types of people are one and the same, however, with a closer look at the Bible and also the history of Christianity it becomes evident that there could well be a marked difference between the two.
It is not uncommon to find many Christians who have never read the complete Bible even once, let alone the history of Christianity! If any time is given it is spent by going to Church once in a while and listening to the local Minister or Priest, but never really questioning or investigating the truth of what is being said. Various doctrines, that are taken for granted, are never looked into to verify whether they have in fact an origin in the Bible or not.
If we start by looking into Christianity as a religion, when was it established and by who we find startling facts. All the first believers and followers of Jesus were Jews. Jesus himself lived all his life as a Jew. All the first followers of Jesus, and for the first 200 years prayed in the Synagogues. The earliest known Church was not built until the year 232 A. D., two whole centuries after Jesus died. That is found at Dura-Euphrates #1 (The History of Christianity, a Lion handbook, page 76).
Up till the time Jesus died Christianity, as a religion independent from Judaism, did not exist. In his own words, Jesus asserted that he did not come to establish a new religion, but instead he had come as the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament):
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" #2 (The Bible, Mathew 5:17-18)
Many doctrines that constitute the foundation of Christianity, such as the Trinity, have no origin in the Bible. The article of faith up until the end of the 2nd century was:
"I believe in God the Almighty" #3 (Articles of the Apostolic Creed, Theodore Zahn, p. 33-37)
Between 180 and 210 A. D. the word 'Father' was added before the 'Almighty'.
This was opposed by a number of Bishops. Bishops Victor and Zephysius immediately defied this addition, as they stated that it is a sin to add or subtract to the Scripture. At the time, the Holy Spirit was still understood to mean a superior angel, not of one substance with God.
Arius, a senior presbyter, was among the many who believed that the Father alone was really God, the son did not possess by nature or right any of the divine qualities of immortality, sovereignty and purity. He did not exist before he was begotten by the Father. With the aid of reason Arius proceeded to prove that Jesus is not God: There was a time when Jesus did not exist, therefore Jesus is not eternal, and since God is eternal, Jesus cannot be God. #4 (The History of Christianity, a Lion handbook, p. 164).
Arius also stated his case with evidence from the Scripture. If Jesus said:
"My Father is greater than I" #5 (John 14:28),
"No messenger is greater than the one who sent him" #6 (John 13:16)
then to believe that God and Jesus are equal is to deny the truth of the Bible.
It was not until the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D., and against strong opposition from many Bishops, that the concept of the Trinity was adopted. To exclude the arguments of Arius the council produced its own creed, which was called the creed of Nicaea.
THE CREED OF NICAEA
"We believe in one God the Father, Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten that is, from the substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, Very God from Very God….." #7 (The History of Christianity, a Lion handbook, p. 177).
The council also decided that all gospels not in agreement with the creed should be burned. It became a capital offence to possess an unauthorized gospel. As a result, over a million Christians were killed in the years that followed. In an attempt to understand the implications of the creed, one is ultimately faced with the following questions:
- If Jesus is made of the same substance as God, as the creed states, he must be a God as well; and if he is a God, is he a different God? If he is, that would make them two Gods, but the creed says: "We believe in one God"
- If Jesus is a God but not a different God then he must be God himself. If that is the case how can he be begotten? Isn't God eternal?
These two possibility, apart from the fact that both of them are totally irrational, are also in direct contradiction to the Bible.
The first of these two possibility, which makes Jesus a different God from God contradicts the Bible which asserts that God is One and indivisible:
"The first of all the commandments is Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One." #8 (Mark 12:29)
The second possibility is that there is only one God and who came down to earth in the form of a man. If that is so, and since God is indivisible, then we must conclude that God and Jesus are one being not two. This indivisibility of God, necessitates that God and Jesus must be one being. However, this does not conform with many verses in the Bible where Jesus and God are clearly spoken of as two separate beings:
If God came down to earth as a man, one would expect that after the end of His life on earth, and upon His return to heaven, He would be One being not two. This is not in agreement with the following verse:
"So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" #9 (Mark 16:19)
This verse, which speaks about Jesus after he was raised up into heaven, clearly indicates that God and Jesus are not one being, for how can God be sitting on the right hand of Himself?!!
"…………and he often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed" #10 (Luke 5:16)
"And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on a mountain by himself to pray" #11 (Mathew 14:23)
These two verses which speak about Jesus are of great significance. How can Jesus be God if he was worshipping God as any other mortal? Who is he praying to?
The Church may well suggest that Jesus was only praying in a symbolic manner so as to teach the people how to conduct prayer. This argument is nevertheless unacceptable because the words "wilderness" and "by himself" indicate that at those specific times, Jesus was all on his own while praying. He could not have been teaching anybody!
"and Jesus ……….for forty days in the wilderness was tempted by the devil" #12 (Luke 4:1)
In the Bible we also read:
"God cannot be tempted by the devil" #13 (James 1:13)
If God cannot be tempted by the devil, and Jesus was tempted by the devil, then Jesus cannot be God.
Jesus himself refused to be called son of God on a number of occasions. In the following verse he rebukes the ones who called him son of God, preferring the title of 'Messiah':
"And devils came out of many, crying out and saying, 'You are the son of God!' And he, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was the Messiah" #14 (Luke 4:41).
The refusal of Jesus to be called the son of God, and choosing instead the title of 'son of man' also occurred during the trial at the Sanhedrian. When he was asked if he claimed to be the son of God he replied:
"So you say. But I tell you this: from now you shall see the son of man seated at the right hand of God" #15 (Mathew 26:64) (in some Bibles the words 'the words are yours' instead of 'so you say')
On numerous occasions Jesus speaks of himself as a prophet:
"A prophet is not without honour except in his home town and his own house" #16 (Mathew 13:57) (Mark 6:4) and (Luke 4:24)
We also read:
"I must journey today, tomorrow and the day following for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem" #17 (Luke 13:33)
"This is the prophet Jesus" #18 (Mathew 21:11)
Jesus also spoke of himself as the messenger of God:
"Whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes God's messenger because he is God's messenger will share in his reward." #19 (Mathew 10:40)
"No messenger is greater than the one who sent him" #20 (John 13:16)
The distinction in this verse is made very clear by Jesus between himself and the One who sent him. This is again made clear in the following verse:
"And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." #21 (John 17:3)
These verses clearly speak of two separate beings. To claim that Jesus and God are one reduces these verses to mere nonsense!
In various other verses Jesus is referred to as the servant of God:
"Here is my servant whom I have chosen" #22 (Mathew 12:18)
"To you first, God having raised up His servant Jesus, sent him to bless you" #23 (The Acts 3:26).
These two verses, which are a fulfillment of Isaiah 42;1-4, speak of Jesus as the servant of God and not as a God.
The Church will usually argue that the terms 'prophet' or 'servant' are symbolic and are not to be taken literally. That is fine as long as this principle is applied to other equally important issues. Why does it have to be that when it comes to the title of 'son of God' the Church insists on taking it literally?!!
All these verses that speak of Jesus as a prophet of God, a messenger of God and indeed the servant of God if anything affirm the fact that Jesus was a man who worshipped God like any other mortal.
Jesus did not think of himself as being perfect, let alone divine. He knew in his heart that only God is perfect:
"Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is God." #24 (Mark 10:18)
These are hardly the words of someone who thought of himself as God come down to earth in the form of a man! In actual fact in these words Jesus makes a very clear distinction between God and himself.
In all the Bible there is not one verse where Jesus says that he is God come down to earth, that he is divine or that he should be worshipped. On the contrary he taught the people to worship God in heaven:
"You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve" #25 (Luke 4:8)
Was Jesus God come down to earth and did not know it himself?!!
The divinity of Jesus is never taught by Jesus and has no origin in the Bible, but was adopted some time after the death of Jesus.
In addition to the previous evidence from the New Testament that refute the divinity of Jesus, it can also be demonstrated that the Jesus' divinity is inconsistent with the prophecies contained in the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus was a Jew who lived and worshipped God according to the law of Moses. Jesus himself said:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" #26 (Mathew 5:17-18)
With the words "to fulfil" Jesus was referring to the prophecies in the Jewish Scripture. These prophecies speak about the coming of the Messiah, the King of Jews. We do not find one prophecy that speaks of the coming of God in the form of a man or of a divine son of God! All the prophecies spoke of the coming of the King of Jews not of a God.
The 'God Incarnate' concept
The concept of God come down to earth in the form of a man 'God Incarnate', has probably been accepted by most Christians because the visual concrete image of God, that the concept presents, is easier to conceive than an otherwise abstract God that can never be seen. To think of God in a human form is at least something to cling to!
The concept of 'God incarnate', compassionate as it might seem on the surface, yet in reality is philosophically inconsistent with the overall divine plan due to the following reasons:
- The concept of 'God Incarnate' is in error because it channels man's approach to God through the physical form rather than by escape from it. The purpose of any revelation is to inspire man to elevate his soul to seek nearness to God, not for God to descend to a physical form to convince man!
- It does not seem just or fair that God should send messengers to all people except one particular people to whom he should go to them himself. We are always made to believe that God loves all mankind equally. Why should God grant one people such a great blessing that is not given to others?
- The overall plan entailed the sending of messengers across the ages to bring guidance to mankind. For God to come down in person would seem as a change of plan on God's side in accommodation to man's misbehavior. It is not becoming of the Omnipotent God to adapt to accommodate man.
The concept of a God coming down to earth and undertaking all that suffering on himself defies the definition of an Omnipotent God. To suggest that God undertook all that suffering on himself because he so much loved man is not at all convincing. Since God's love for man cannot be increased by having to suffer himself, that scenario seems totally unnecessary. Instead, God's love is expressed in His mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
A loving father who wishes to forgive his misbehaving son does not love his son any more by saying 'I love you so much my son, I wish to forgive you so I will beat myself up!!'
The concept of 'God Incarnate' is self-contradictory because the person of the incarnate Jesus is credited with possessing two sets of attributes which sharply contradict one another. It was Plato who first stressed the difference between earthly and heavenly worlds. The former changeable, imperfect and finite, and the latter unchangeable, perfect and infinite. Later, the same contrasts were applied to man and God. #27 (The Debate about Christ, Don Cuppit, p.25)
Under the 'God Incarnate' doctrine Jesus was called upon to unite the two polarities. As God he was infinite, perfect and all-powerful; but as man he was finite, imperfect weak and afflicted. Since he was one person, he was meant to be simultaneously infinite and finite, incapable of temptation and capable of temptation, perfect and imperfect and so on. If such claims are self-contradictory then the doctrine of 'God Incarnate' cannot be true. It is nonsense.
The 'God Incarnate' doctrine which necessitates that salvation can only be attained through belief in Jesus Christ is also erroneous because it automatically means that damnation awaits all those who were unfortunate to have lived before the time of Jesus. In divine terms that would seem unjust.
The 'God Incarnate' doctrine is in contradiction with the following verse:
"No man shall see me and live" #28 (Exodus 33:20)
If God came down to earth, albeit in the form of a man, and be seen and touched by man then the previous verse would be meaningless.
- The 'God Incarnate' doctrine also raises serious questions concerning the absolute ability of God. God, being perfection, does not fail in any endeavour that He undertakes. He only needs to say be and it is. Now to say that Jesus is God come to earth to deliver mankind from sin and convert the sinners to righteous believers, we would immediately be faced with another dilemma.
No one can dispute the holy message delivered by Jesus to all peoples, his great impact on humanity, nor the divine Revelation he delivered from God. However, the fact still remains that there are still millions of non-believers today in the world. The sense in which God is called free differs from the sense in which man is called free as Don Cupitt wrote. #29 (The Debate about Christ, Don Cuppit, p. 19). God is called free in the sense that His purpose cannot fail. His will is at no time confined, dependent or challenged. If God says, 'I will become incarnate and save men', then nothing can stop it happening. Failure in any form or degree is inconsistent with the concept of the perfect God.
Furthermore, the Church support the 'Son of God' doctrine with three more arguments:
- Jesus blessed with the Holy Spirit
- The virgin birth
- The nature of his miracles
Jesus blessed with the Holy Spirit:Indeed the Bible affirms that Jesus was blessed with the Holy Spirit. However, a careful study of the Bible confirms that Jesus was not the only one blessed with the Holy Spirit. The Bible speaks of others who were also blessed with the Holy Spirit. The following verse speaks about John the Baptist:
"He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit." #30 (Luke 1:15)
We are told the same about John's father the righteous priest Zacharias, that he too was "filled with the Holy Spirit" #31 (Luke 1 verse 67)
It is a good idea to pause here and inquire into the real meaning of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that for the first two hundred years after the death of Jesus, when the concept of the 'Trinity' was not yet adopted, that the Holy Spirit was still understood to mean a superior angel, not of one substance with God. This definition is supported by a number of verses in the Bible. The following verses assert that meaning:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" #32 (Mathew 1:18)
Now consider the following verse:
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man called Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary." #33 (Luke 1:26-27)
From these verses we see that the Holy Spirit and Gabriel are used interchangeably.
Thus to say that someone was blessed with the Holy Spirit is to say that God supported him with the angel Gabriel to be his guardian.
The 'Virgin Birth':
The Church have used the 'Virgin Birth' strongly to favour the 'Son of God' concept. The claim is that since Jesus had no human father, his father must be God in heaven, he is thus the true son of God. The simple argument against that is put forward be referring to Adam. According to Genesis, Adam did not have a father nor a mother. Should not Adam also be the son of God? And if he is indeed called the son of God as in:
"Adam the son of God" #34 (Luke 3:38)
Shouldn't all of us, the seed of Adam, be called children of God? And if we are indeed called so in the Bible:
"We are the children of God" #35 (Romans 8:16)
"You are the sons of the living God" #36 (Hosea 1:10)
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." #37 (Mathew 5:9)
"Those who are led by God's spirit are God's sons." #38 (Romans 8:14)
Should the Church still insist on denying that Jesus taught that we are all children of God?
And if indeed Jesus said just that as in:
"I ascend to my father and your father, to my God and your God." #39 (John 20:17)
Should we still insist on the divinity of Jesus?
The Miracles of Jesus:
The awesome nature of the miracles performed by Jesus, not the least the raising of the dead, were also used to support the divinity of Jesus. However the Bible testifies that all the miracles performed by Jesus were also performed by other prophets such as Elisha and Elijah, yet no one argues that these men are thus divine.
Feeding thousands with scarce food
The prophet Elisha fed great crowds with twenty barley loaves:
"So he set in before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord" #40 (II Kings 4:44)
Other similar events are found in (II Kings 4 verse 7) (I Kings 17 verse 16) and (I Kings 17 verse 6)
Elisha told Namaan, who was a leper, to wash in the Jordan river in order to be healed:
"Then went he (Namaan) down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child." #41 (II Kings 5:14)
Giving sight to the blind
"And Elisha prayed and said, Lord I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw……." #42 (II Kings 6:17)
Raising the dead
Even this most awesome of miracles was performed by other prophets as the Bible testifies:
"And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he recovered" #43 (I Kings 17:22). Other similar event in (II Kings 4:34) and (II Kings 13:21).
Jesus himself admitted, on numerous occasions, that whatever power he had was given to him by God. Consider the following verses:
"I do nothing of myself" #44 (John 8:28)
"I do as the father has commanded me" #45 (John 14:31)
It is quite clear from these verses that Jesus is not speaking about himself. Clearly he is speaking about the Almighty God whom he worships. Beside acknowledging God's authority, and after performing such miracles, Jesus often prayed and thanked God for giving him such powers. In John's gospel, and after raising Lazarus, Jesus said:
"Father I thank you that you have heard me, and I know that you always hear me." #46 (John 11:41-42)
If Jesus is God, who is he thanking?
These few verses if anything, indicate that it was God's authority that allowed such miracles. God grants these powers to his chosen prophets as a sign with which their people can identify and believe in them, not for their own people to turn them into Gods.
Many researches have been conducted on the issue of the crucifixion of Jesus. Was Jesus put on the cross? Did Jesus die on the cross? These are the focal questions that need to be answered. The traditional Christian view is that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross to take away our sins. Although the Bible provides sufficient evidence to suggest that Jesus was indeed put on the cross, we also find strong evidence to indicate that he did not die on the cross.
We read in the Bible that upon his arrest, or just before, Jesus went into deep prayers to God to save him from death:
"In the days of his earthly life, he offered up prayers, with loud cries and tears to God who was able to save him from death" #47 (Hebrews 5:7)
This very significant verse indicates that upon hearing the prayers of Jesus, God has saved him from death. In other words Jesus did not die on the cross. The Church may argue that the prayers of Jesus took place when he was in the grave and before being resurrected. However, this is in contradiction to the words of the verse: "In the days of his earthly life". The words "earthly life" mean being alive on earth, and not dead in the grave.
The same conclusion can be reached from the famous prophecy in Psalms:
"My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me? I was cast upon you from birth from my mother's womb. You have been my God, be not far from be for trouble is near, for there is no one to help. For dogs have surrounded me. The Assembly of the wicked have enclosed me but you, O Lord, do not be far from me................ you have answered me." #48 (Psalms 22)
The words "you have answered me" again indicate that God saved Jesus from death.
Other verses seem to suggest that God had raised the soul of Jesus sometime before the crucifixion and that the one that was crucified by the Romans was no more than a living but soulless body (similar to the body of one who goes into a coma before dying).
This view which shows God's immense compassion is strengthened by the following verse:
"But you, O Lord be merciful to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them ……..my enemy does not triumph over me." #49 (Psalms 41:10-11)
The words "raise me up" so that "my enemy does not triumph over me" also support the theory of the raising of the soul of Jesus before his enemy triumphs over him (before being crucified).
Further evidence to support this view was discovered in 1945 when an Egyptian farmer digging for fertile soil near the village of 'Nag Hammadi' unearthed a red clay jar. It contained thirteen papyrus scrolls which contained the now famous gospel of Thomas.
The importance of this gospel is that it escaped the censorship and revision of the Roman orthodoxy. In the following extract Jesus is speaking in the first person:
"I did not succumb to them as they had planned .............and I did not die in reality but in appearance, lest I be put to shame by them......... for my death which they think happened (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death........ it was another" #50 (The Holy blood and the Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln p. 403)
The words "I did not die in reality" confirms that the soul of Jesus was raised before being put on the cross. Further confirmation is in the words "it was another".
On the other hand, the gospel of St. Barnabas, unlike the four better known gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) was written by a man who lived during the life of Jesus. Barnabas is described in the Bible with the words:
"Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." #51 (The Acts 11:24)
It is interesting that although his gospel also supports the theory that Jesus did not die on the cross it nevertheless presents a different interpretation. According to his gospel a process of substitution occurred whereby Judas was transformed by God so as to look identical to Jesus and thus was arrested by the Romans and crucified.
In 1907 an English translation of the gospel of Barnabas was published by the Oxford University Press. Nearly the whole edition of this translation mysteriously disappeared from the market. Only two copies of this translation are known to exist today, one in the British Museum and the other in the Library of Congress in Washington.
It is important to distinguish between the two terms 'Raising' and 'Resurrection'. While as the
'Raising' of Jesus could have happened to him while he was still alive and thus saved him from death, we find that the 'Resurrection' could not have occurred unless Jesus had died first. In view of all the verses that speak of the 'raising' and also being saved from death, the evidence seems to support the raising of a living Jesus by God to save him from death.
Paul ……….the 'corrupter of Christianity'
It is also important to note that the concept of 'Resurrection' is not regarded as a unique event in the Bible and thus could not be taken to support the divinity of Jesus:
"And the graves were open; and many bodies of the Saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." #52 (Mathew 27:52-53)
The whole concept of the 'Resurrection' was introduced by Paul who never saw Jesus alive:
"Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel." #53 (2 Timothy 2:8)
Paul was also the first to declare Jesus as the son of God:
"Immediately he (Paul) preached the Christ in the synagogues, that he is the son of God." #54 (The Acts 9:20)
Christianity of today is largely the teaching of Paul and not Jesus! The liberty with which Paul proceeded to change the teachings of Jesus is indeed alarming. The resurrection and divinity of Jesus are among the major issues that were introduced by Paul. Other basic issues regarded as sacred by Jews were sadly discarded by Paul. Consider the following:
"God said to Abraham, 'You must agree to keep the covenant with me, both you and your descendants in future generations. You and your descendants must agree to circumcise every male among you………… every male who is not circumcised will no longer be considered one of my people, because he has not kept the covenant with me." #55 (Genesis 17:9-14)
First, we find Paul speaking indifferently about circumcision, which is a sacred Jewish ritual:
"Whether or not a man is circumcised means nothing" #56 (1 Corinthians 7:19)
Later, he went to the extent of openly condemning such practice:
"I, Paul, tell you that if you allow yourself to be circumcised, it means that Christ is of no use to you at all" #57 (Galatians 5:2)
It is worth noting that Jesus himself was circumcised!
It may be that Paul claimed to be an apostle and a man of God, yet some of his own words in fact portray him as a man of little integrity.
"I robbed other Churches, taking wages from them to minister to you." #58 (2 Corinthians 11:8)
"What I am saying now is not what the Lord would want me to say; in this manner of boasting I am really talking like a fool." #59 (2 Corinthians 11:17)
"For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus." #60 (2 Corinthians 11:4)
Sadly these are some of the words of a man after whom Christianity of today is largely based!
Paul argued that it is not necessary for a person to obey the law of Moses to be a good Christian, and that in fact, the only requirement for salvation is faith.
If that was the case, we may indeed wonder, why then did Jesus spend the best years of his life preaching what to do and what not to do in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven? The naive idea that a mere belief in Jesus automatically guarantees one's place in heaven is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus:
"Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what God in heaven wants them to do." #61 (Mathew 7:21)
It also contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments:
"Also to you O Lord, belong mercy; for you render to each one according to his work." #62 (Psalms 62:12)
"And will he not render to each man according to his deeds?" #63 (Proverbs 24:12)
"The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." #64 (Ezekiel 18:20)
"Each of us shall give an account of himself to God." #65 (Romans 14:12)
"Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour." #66 (1 Corinthians 3:8)
All these verses testify that faith alone is not sufficient, but that the reward is also very much dependent on one's "work", "deeds", "righteousness" and "labour".
What is truly amazing is the fact that the last two verses, which are from Romans and Corinthians, are in fact the words of Paul himself. This illustrates how he not only contradicted the teachings of Jesus, but also contradicted himself!
Paul claimed that his teaching was directly revealed to him from Jesus through a vision. This immediately raises the following important questions:
- Was the message and revelation delivered by Jesus incomplete? Did he have to complete it after his death through another?!
Jesus lived all his life as a Jew and followed the law of Moses, moreover he always maintained that he has not come to change the law:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" #67 (The Bible, Mathew 5:17-18)
On the other hand we find that Paul preached numerous concepts that were never taught by Jesus and that contradict the law of Moses.
These two conflicting situations compels us to uphold only one of them. They cannot both be correct. Needless to say, the teachings of Jesus are surely to be upheld. Those who truly believe in Jesus will undoubtedly follow his teachings.
Due to this marked discrepancy between the divine message delivered by Jesus and the corrupt innovation brought about by Paul, there is justification in Paul being called by Heinz Zehrnt the "corrupter of the gospel of Jesus" #68 (The Jesus Report, Johannes Lehman, p. 126), while Werde calls him "the second founder of Christianity" #69 (Ibid. p.127).
In the Bible we read the following accusation against him:
"This man is trying to persuade people to worship God in a way that is against the law." #70 (The Acts 18:13)
This serious accusation cannot be ignored, bearing in mind what Jesus said:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil"
Jesus lived all his life as a Jew, he often preached in synagogues, and early Christians were all using the synagogues. There is no evidence whatsoever in the Bible to indicate that Jesus thought of himself as the founder of a new religion.
The disciples preaching after Jesus' death still maintained the Jewish law. We read for example that Simon Peter while preaching after Jesus' death still called himself a Jew who followed the Jewish religion:
"I need not tell you that a Jew is forbidden by his religion to associate with one of another race." #71 (The Acts 10:28)
Later, after Jesus' death, and when the new religion of Christianity was established and deviated from the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, Barnabas and the gentiles were expelled from the synagogues as they were accused of blasphemy and pollution:
"But the Jews ………… raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region." #72 (The Acts 13:50)
It is important to note that at that time Barnabas still travelled and preached with Paul. Later, when Paul deviated from the original gospel, the two men parted company.
The concept of 'Resurrection', being a new concept introduced by Paul, was immediately attacked in the synagogues:
"And they took him (Paul) to the Areopagus saying: May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?" #73 (The Acts 17:19)
The word "new" in the verse is self-indicative.
As for the 'Trinity', we have seen that the word does not exist in the Bible and was never taught by Jesus. With that in mind, it is quite incredible that such concept should become the foundation upon which Christianity is formed! If being a Christian means upholding the teachings of Jesus Christ, then upholding the concept of the 'Trinity', which Jesus never taught, cannot be is very Christian!
There is mention in the Bible of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit as in the King James Bible which was authorized in 1611:
"For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit and those three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth; the Spirit the water and the blood, and these three agree as one." #74 (First Epistle of John 5:7-8)
However, the phrase:
"For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit and those three are one." has been expunged in the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 and in many other Bibles as it was an addition that had encroached on the original Greek text.
The same verse in other Bibles read:
"And it is the spirit who bears witness, because the spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement." #75 (The American Standard Bible, First Epistle of John 5:7-8)
In other Bibles the same verse reads:
"For there are three witness bearers, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement." #76 (New World Translation of the Holy Scripture, First Epistle of John 5:7-8)
Furthermore, the 'Trinity' offers a most irrational situation when it speaks of the Father as Creator, the Son as Redeemer and the Spirit as Sanctifier! This irrational arrangement, which will have us believe that God is a committee of three with distinct divided functions, is clearly in contradiction to the concept of the One Indivisible God.
The concept of the 'Trinity', was formulated by Athanasius (an Egyptian deacon from Alexandria) #77 (The History of Christianity, a Lion Handbook, p.172-177). This was accepted by the council of Nicaea in 325 A. D., that is three centuries after the death of Jesus! No doubt Roman Paganism had an influence on this doctrine (the Triune God). Sabbath was shifted to Sunday. The birth of the Sun-God Mithra, being December the 25th, was introduced as Jesus' birthday! Many Pagan customs were Christianised, for example the use of candles, incense and garlands. These customs were opposed by the Church because they symbolised paganism, however these have become common place today.
Some other pagan customs that were also Christianised are in clear violation of the Bible. One
such custom is the cutting down and decorating of trees for Christmas. On that the Bible says:
"For the customs of the people are in vain; for one cutteth a tree from the forest ………they decorate it with silver and Gold." # 78 (Jeremiah 10:2-5)
These are some of the concepts and customs introduced after the death of Jesus, mostly from Roman paganism, that have no origin whatsoever in the Bible.
Was Divinity a political solution?
In an attempt to analyse the reasons why the Church adopted the divinity of Jesus in those early days after the death of Jesus, when all the Scripture affirm his status as a prophet of God as we have seen, and more important when Jesus himself never claimed divinity, one may think of the following:
At that time, and unlike today, the Church had a double role. First, the Church was a constitution that provided spiritual guidance and a place of worship to people. Additionally, the Church was effectively involved in the ruling the land. Religion and politics were inseparable. Anyone who dared oppose the Church was very severely punished.
The Church being all too aware of the history of the people of Israel, knew that many prophets have come and gone and then forgotten. The Church was also aware that since the heart of the faith was the figure of Jesus Christ, then to maintain that kind of authority the Church had to keep the faith in Jesus intact. Effectively, the best insurance to guard against a forgotten Jesus figure, would be the creation of a divine Jesus figure, for if a prophet may be forgotten, a god will never be. Thus if Jesus was made into a God figure the Church would never forfeit its commanding authority.
The divinity of Jesus was adopted along with the 'Trinity' which was a reconciliation with Roman paganism. However, when asked to explain how can God be one and three simultaneously, or how can God be the Father and his own son at the same time, the Church will reply:
"Just have faith!" and "That is the mystery of it!"
It does not matter if it does not make any sense as long as you believe what they are telling you! But surely any concept that is filled with irrational mysteries must harbour a defect in its core. The truth is never irrational.
Historically, the 'Trinity' is an encroachment on the Scripture, it is philosophically feeble and mathematically absurd.
No sooner do we abandon the attempts to find a rational definition of the 'Trinity' or the Father and the Son, do we come across yet another confusing title, that is the title of the 'Lord'.
Most Christians today think of Jesus as the Lord, but in the Bible the matter is not so clear cut. Consider the following verses:
"And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious" #79 (Exodus 34:6)
It is clear from this verse that the Lord is God.
"Yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we live for him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live." #80 (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Here the Lord is Jesus. The verse also asserts that only the Father is God. A clear distinction is evident between God and Jesus.
We also read:
"The Lord is the Spirit" #81 (2 Corinthians 3:17)
From these verses we realise that the Lord is anyone of the three. For that there is not much difference in the word Lord or the word God. Thus all who say "Our Lord Jesus Christ" are in fact saying "Our God Jesus Christ". What it boils down to is that, since Christian ideology perceives the Father and the Son as one, there seems little need for the terms Father and Son inside a Trinity configuration.
Some advocates will speak of the 'Trinity' in the manner of one God in three forms. They add that there is no mystery at all since God at all times is one but the plurality is one of form. For as a frog exists as a tadpole and also as a frog but at the end is still the same creature.
This is fine except for one slight problem. The tadpole and the frog are not able to exist simultaneously, it is either tadpole or frog. If they exists simultaneously they would ipso facto be two creatures.
In the case of Jesus, we have seen how the Bible contains ample evidence of a clear distinction between Jesus and God. Jesus always acknowledged the existence of God external of himself. The following verses all make that clear distinction:
"My Father is greater than I" #82 (John 14:28)
"Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what God in heaven wants them to do." #83 (Mathew 7:21)
"Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is God." #84 (Mark 10:18)
"And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." #85 (John 17:3)
"So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" #86 (Mark 16:19)
If Jesus and God are one, these verses and many others which clearly speaks of two beings, would make very little sense!
'Atonement' & 'Original sin'
The concepts of 'Atonement' and 'Original Sin' are equally precarious and not without inconsistencies. To claim that Jesus suffered and was crucified to atone for our sin is philosophically immoral. Not only does this conviction render little sense to the merits of punishment and reward, and thus to heaven and hell, but more dangerously, such belief could be regarded as a license to disregard righteousness as long as one believes in Jesus!
The Atonement doctrine contradicts the Old and New Testaments:
"Also to you O Lord, belong mercy; for you render to each one according to his work." #87 (Psalms 62:12)
"And will he not render to each man according to his deeds?" #88 (Proverbs 24:12)
"The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." #89 (Ezekiel 18:20)
"Each of us shall give an account of himself to God." #90 (Romans 14:12)
"Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour." #91 (1 Corinthians 3:8)
All these verses testify that faith alone is not sufficient, but that the reward is also very much dependent on one's "work", "deeds", "righteousness" and "labour".
The concept of Jesus dying to take away our sins is a corruption that has been added to the Scripture. The following is a vivid piece of evidence:
From the New Testament we read:
"From Zion shall come the deliverer; he shall remove wickedness from Jacob. And this is the covenant I will grant them, when I take away their sins." #92 (Romans 11:26-27)
This verse is the Fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah:
"…………the ransomer of Zion and of all in Jacob who repent of their rebellion. This is the very word of the Lord. This, says the Lord, is my covenant which I make with them. My spirit which rests on you and my words which I put into your mouth shall never fail …….." #93 (Isaiah 59:19-21)
By comparing the two verses we realise that the words "when I take away their sins" do not exist in Isaiah, it is clear that they have been added to the verse in Romans to advocate a corrupt doctrine.
Another doctrine that was never taught by Jesus, is the concept of the 'original sin'. According to this irrational concept we all have to atone for the sin of Adam! Thus we are all born with an original sin that we have to atone for! This concept, which claims that new born babies also born with a sin, contradicts all the previous verses that assert that every man will be accountable to his own deeds and labour, and that no man shall bear the sin of another. Furthermore, this concept contradicts the words of Jesus as in the following verse:
"Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." #94 (Mathew 19:14)
Since there is no sin in heaven, and of such (children) is the kingdom of heaven, one is led to believe that children are free of sin.
Such concepts that were never taught by Jesus, but were added sometime after his death, inevitably causes the Christian a dilemma when attempting to reconcile his acceptance of the Old Testament with his rejection of Judaism. This becomes particularly evident with regards to the following question:
How can the one indivisible God of the Old Testament become a three-in-one in the framework of the 'Trinity'?
Has God always been three-in-one? And if so why was this knowledge not given to the people of Israel? The Old Testament gives account of numerous prophets who delivered Scripture from God, why did they all testify to a one indivisible God? Was the three-in-one of the 'Trinity' a secret that suddenly surfaced!!
Due to all these questions that do not receive satisfactory answers, one is not surprised to find Churches almost empty today and being accused of 'double think' which is defined by George Orwell as:
"Double think means the power to hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them." #95 ( "1984", George Orwell, page 220)
The gross case of double think is upholding the Oneness of God and the 'Trinity' simultaneously. Another case is evident in Article VII of the thirty nine articles of the Church of England which states:
"The Old Testament is not contrary to the New". However, and as was demonstrated, many concepts that appear in the letters of Paul contradict the Old Testament. What must be stressed here is the fact that the teachings of Jesus never contradicted the Old Testament. After all, he confessed to the following:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" #96 (The Bible, Mathew 5:17-18)
It is no surprise that many reputable scholars have openly opposed such concepts as the 'Trinity'. This group of Christians, who were to be known as the 'Unitarians' insisted on the Oneness (indivisibility) of God. They emphasised the historical Jesus, and avoided the use of the term 'son'. The earliest 'Unitarians' include Iranaeus, Diodorus, Lucian and Arius.
Iranaeus (130-200 A. D.), who was put to death in 200 A. D., bitterly opposed Paul for injecting Pagan and Platonic philosophy into Christianity.
Lucian who was also put to death for his beliefs in 312 A. D. opposed the tendency to look for symbolic and allegorical meanings in the Scripture. He believed that Jesus is subordinate to God.
Arius (250-336), who was one of the pupils of Lucian, was one of the greatest critics of the Pauline Church.
The 'Unitarian' school of Christianity continued to flourish to include a great host of scholars. In his 'Historical Account', Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is quoted saying the following about the Trinity:
"Let them make good sense of it who are able. For my part I can make none." #97 (Anti-Trinitarian Biographies III, A. Wallace, page 428)
Joseph Priestly (1733-1804), who discovered oxygen, also the affirmed the humanity of Jesus and opposed the 'Trinity'. Others include the poet Milton (1608-1674), William Channing (1780-1842) and John Locke (1632-1704).
The Church was not instituted by Jesus. He never advocated a hierarchy of priests to act as mediators between God and man. Yet, the Church today teaches Christians that their salvation would be assured if they acted as the Church told them! From where did the Church derive this authority? The validity of such authority is today being rejected on a scale that has never been known before. One of the turning points occurred as far back as 1755 in the great Lisbon earthquake, in which hundreds of Christians died in Church while celebrating the Mass. Coinciding as it did with the 'Age of Reason', it caused the whole concept of salvation to come under a very severe hammering! #98 (The Case against God, Gerald Priestly, page 16)
George Harrison of the Beatles summed it up very nicely with the following words:
"When you're young you get taken to Church by your parents and you get pushed into religion at school. They're trying to put something into your mind. Obviously because nobody goes to Church and nobody believes in God. Why? Because they haven't interpreted the Bible as it was intended. You're taught just to have faith, you don't have to worry about it, just believe what we are telling you." #99 (Christianity on Trial, Colin Chapman, page 37).
With these words George Harrison was indeed bringing to attention a very serious phenomenon. Many people who turn their backs on the Church today and are disenchanted with religion do so because of the misinterpretations that George Harrison referred to rather than their denial of God. The divinity of Jesus, a concept adopted by the Church and never taught by Jesus, also contributes greatly in turning Jews away from believing in Jesus the Messiah of whom their prophecies speak. In the Old Testament the Messiah and King of Jews is a prophet sent to the people of Israel. He is another prophet in a sequence of many prophets. The original teachings of Jesus in their pure uncorrupted form indeed reflect that fact. They are not any different from the teachings of Abraham, Moses and David. But sadly the corrupted version taught by the Church today, which is more the teachings of Paul than Jesus, has made Christianity become isolated from Jewish theology. The 'Trinity', the 'God Incarnate', the 'Resurrection', the 'Atonement', and other corrupt doctrines have alienated Christianity from the main stream of Jewish revelations.
The dedicated atheist and philosopher Sir Alfred Ayer had this to say:
"Christianity is based on the notion of vicarious atonement which shocks me not only intellectually but morally. If I have a child I don't punish his brother for what he did, and that is exactly what Christianity is based upon."
Sir Ayer proceeds to show distaste for God's massacre of the Jews throughout the Old Testament then he adds:
"Here you have your deity who did all this, and then he said suddenly, 'People are behaving badly, I am going to transform myself into a human being and suffer vicariously. Sins have to be atoned for by a 'sacrificial lamb'. So Christ is supposed to atone for the sins that other people committed. The whole thing is not only intellectually contemptible but thoroughly outrageous." #100 (The Case against God, Gerald Priestland, page 18).
It is not surprising, and due to the poor argumentative content of such doctrines, to find Christianity constantly changing to conform to current values!
T. S. Elliot put it very well when he said:
"Christianity is always adapting itself into something which can be believed." #101 (The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by John Hick, page IX).
To conclude, it is quite apparent that the real Jesus of the Bible, also referred to as the historical Jesus, is quite different from the divine figure falsely portrayed by the Church. Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus portrayed as the earthly incarnation of God. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus claim that the only route to salvation is through himself. There is no evidence in the Bible to support the 'Atonement' doctrine, neither is there any evidence that Jesus taught or believed in his own divinity.
Finally, it is apt to end with the words of Jesus which he directed at all those who idolised and worshipped him instead of worshipping God:
"Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what God in heaven wants them to do. When Judgment day comes many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God's message' Then I will say to them, 'I never knew you, get away from me you wicked people. " #102 (Mathew 7:21-23)