Why I Left Jesus – by Concerned Reader
Annelise, as you have noted, (and I tend to agree,) we seem to be tied by strong conviction and knowledge to our own experiences as communities and individuals. We can only see the truth of various religious claims as we perceive them for ourselves. Being told various truths by other groups and people, (be they Jews or Christians, or others) can seldom hold a candle to our personal experiences. I used to believe in Jesus. (I wasn’t raised trinitarian, though I appreciated the doctrine later, after deeper studies in university.)
What led me away from Jesus and Christianity was not disrespect for Jesus, it wasn’t that I couldn’t find various historical or theological reasons to believe in him, it wasn’t for lack of love, nor was in an inability to empathize with Christian experience, it was the realization of the original target audience, content, context, and the expectations of the biblical books of the Torah read by themselves, and as understood as lived by Jews before Jesus who were expected to observe the law.
When Jesus first came, there was not yet a set of books called the “New Testament.” The only sacred text available to Jews to learn from was the Torah of Moses with its laws, and its promises addressed uniquely to Jewish people as a covenant nation, in which they were told to observe perpetually the law in all generations. Even Christians agree that a “second coming” must occur to truly fulfill the big picture of the biblical messianic expectations, namely the age of peace and prosperity.
This hasn’t happened yet, but its the only Crystal clear picture the Tanakh gives us of what it will be like when the messiah comes with the least amount of interpreting of biblical verses needed. Even Jesus’ students asked, “are you going to at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Messiah is understood by the Torah text, plainly and straightforwardly to be an anointed mortal monarch, just as David, Solomon, and others were. Jesus has not ever literally ruled as an earthly monarch.
In the Jewish people’s historical experience therefore, (given the Torah’s clearest passages about expectations of the coming messianic age,) Jesus has been nothing like a king in the sense the Torah uses most plainly. In that historical plain sense, as far as Jewish experience goes, Jesus simply doesn’t have a role. He has none of the same historical significance for Jews and Jewish culture as he has had for the non Jewish world. He’s not their King. He hasn’t saved them from exile, he hasn’t saved them from enemies, etc. His purported followers in fact have historically harmed Jewish people. Im not blaming all Christians for that, but it shows us something. These promises are things the Torah says the messiah must do. Jesus has not done. This is vitally important information to understand. The Torah describes (most clearly and in its most plain historical sense,) the coming of a ruling mortal king who ushers in an age of peace for humanity, but chiefly, this promise is addressed to the covenant community, the Jews. The Christian experience (coming to monotheism, learning about G-d and bible stories, having many redemptive experiences from lives of depravity,) may have been felt strongly by the Gentiles through this Jesus, but Jews as a nation and people didn’t and haven’t ever experienced these things when Jesus lived, or through him. The Jewish people as a covenant nation therefore have no basis in their lived out historical experience, or clear reason given from a plain reading of the Torah text to accept Jesus as anything more than a 1st century rabbi who made an unverified claim.
Even the gospels tell us that Jesus’ students only knew of Him (at first) as a human rabbi, until he allegedly explained mysterious things to them in a deeper way, or taught them what to see that others couldn’t. The NT says he had to “open their eyes to the scriptures.” This tells us that the everyday people (such as any regular guy who met Jesus with no prior knowledge) had to be told certain things about him.
The New Testament is a document that Chronicles the unique Christian experiences of a Jesus that has been filtered through those Christian experiences. “Joe Anybody” couldn’t just read Hebrew scripture plainly and be assured that Jesus was the messiah. It had to be taught. Messiah as taught by the Torah is supposed to be self evident. Israel knew Moses because he finished his task. Jesus hasn’t completed redemption, so in Jewish experience, he’s not the one.
Give a read to the article entitled Starting Points.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal