Statesboro, GA, USA
His words were not
meant to be taken as a reformation of the Jewish faith but a restoration of
it. He was a fundamentalist.
But what about the Jewish expectation of the Messiah? If Judaism was not a static religion, but an expectant one, then it stands to reason that change was also expected. Moses was the recipient, and the main “teacher” of the law. Then, as Israel slipped away from that standard through the years, there came prophets like Josiah, David, and Ezra who pointed men back to the Law (or Torah). They literally dusted it off, and brought it back in focus when it had been neglected. They most definitely did not place much emphasis on themselves, but upon the Law given through Moses. Here is an example:
"So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law
... Day after Day from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.
... The rest of the people... bound themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God, and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations, and decrees of the LORD our Lord.
(Nehemiah 8:2,3,18 & 10:28-29)
There were other leaders who likewise called the people back to the Law, as given through Moses. But the question is, does Jesus fit this category? Did he honor and uphold the Law, and call people back to the standard of the Law? Yes, of course. But when we look at the New Testament Narratives of Jesus, we see something more... something much different than someone trying to restore Judaism to a former status quo.
It must be remembered that:
1) Judaism had a Messianic hope, and many written prophecies concerning it. (including a prophecy in Daniel about “putting an end to sacrifice”)
2) Most Jews held the “political” view of Messiah ... as one who would come and lead Israel in Military conquest, provide freedom from Rome, and provide a renewed national glory.
3) Jesus claimed, though cautiously, to be the fulfillment of that Messianic hope. He was cautious because of the political overtones of the word “Messiah”, and he did not want to pretend to fulfill that erroneous yet popular conception.
4) Jesus refused on several occasions the tendency of the populace to elevate him as a “King”, or political ruler.
5) Jesus often spoke of a Heavenly Kingdom in contrast with the current conception of an impending Theocratic state.
6) Jesus spoke of his approaching death, and resurrection from the dead.
7) Jesus often spoke of his wider mission toward humanity, as if he did not come merely for the Jews, but for all.
8) Jesus spoke of himself in terms which unmistakably hinted at his unique relationship to God, even his divine nature. So much was this evident that the Jews charged him with “making himself to be equal with God”.
9) Jesus emphasized himself as the “way” to God, moreso than any return to ethics or ceremonial observance. Yet no other prophets who merely came to call Israel back to the Law, emphasized themselves.
I won’t quote the scriptures unless I need to, but if one reads the NT as is, it is obvious that Jesus could not have been a mere prophet who called his people back to the sacrificial system of Moses. To avoid this problem, you could say that Paul and his entourage influenced the gospels, so that their content would not reflect the real teachings of Jesus, or that they altered the original texts.
But this theory has some major problems. First, there are no records of an alternate narrative which might reflect the “true” account of Jesus. What we have in the gospels is “it”. Secondly, there isn’t much within them to suggest that the gospels are particularly “Pauline”. His main ideas such as, the fully developed doctrines of the atonement, redemption by faith, the universality of salvation, and the relationship of law and grace, are not reflected in the gospels ... which were compiled after Paul’s epistles were written. If Paul really influenced the writing of the Gospels, to steer them away from their pure beginnings, it seems he would have been much more true to his own more developed doctrines.
The most natural conclusion would be that what the gospels set forth as doctrines in seed, were developed later through Paul as a natural outgrowth of the words, actions, and life of Jesus. The gospels are in germ. Paul’s epistles are the full blossom. But if Paul changed the story, then it would naturally have appeared the other way around. The Gospels would have been more fully reflective of Pauline thought, his main ideas having been already written down and circulated through the churches.
Just some initial thoughts,
more later ...