War of the Worldviews

Christians have viewed truth in many ways over the course of two millennia. The subject of Jesus as the messiah – the chosen regent and executor of Yahweh, the God of Israel – is no exception. It is he who most adequately and fully reveals this God and has acted within the history of humanity toward ultimate redemption.

In recent years it has been a growing interest within some Christian cliques to expose the juxtaposing ways of theologizing between western and eastern milieus. Most predominantly relating to theology, the Hebraic context is compared to that of a Greek one where the reality of a “war of worldviews” is illuminated.

This is as pervasive today as it is been for two-thousand years, simply put, Christians read the Bible paradigmatically, admittedly or not. There are titles such as messiah (Gr. christ), son of god, son of man, lord and god that communicate something, howbeit not always that something many Christians have been accustomed to think. There are other words that have also taken on a more substantial meaning than that which scriptural evidence produces such as, person, essence, substance, trinity, God the Son, divine or deity etc.

While seemingly a point which needn’t be addressed, the language used in first-century Judaism is not our language, the ways they thought are not ours. Their culture with its idiomatic and euphemistic language composed of metaphor, picture, paradigms and politics is alien to us. Put aside for the moment the implications of what this means for English translation and the detriment it is to varying axiomatic traditions such as what “the living Word of God” (when synonymously related to the Bible) entails, and recognize that this is not a debatable theory, this is reality.

For instance, there are those (such as Daniel Boyarin) who point out that a divine messiah was not a foreign concept to the Hebrews. Instead, the distinction lies in how one defines “divine.” This is not the same definition as to say the messiah was “deity.” It was reasonable to say - as Paul did – that “in Jesus resides all the fullness of the divine being” (cf. Col 2:9). But to exclaim “deity” from Augustinian derived terminology - which is necessarily ontological and therefore entirely anachronistic in relation to scriptural proposition – suggests there has been external influence and tradition into how we read the Jesus narratives. Augustine opined each “person” of the Trinity was in possession of “full” deity, which was not what the Cappadocians held, that the Son and Spirit had their origin in the Father. Recognition that there was not only one “orthodox” Christianity moving through time in opposition to the barbarous and insidious “heretics” is essential for ascertaining the diversity of people and divergent thought in existence.

What is abundantly clear is that Augustine – along with the Church fathers - is from another world. Today the words “divine” and “deity” are commonly associated as synonyms and it is assumed that the first-century writers considered it so as well. The orthodox theological edifice with which most are acclimated today was constructed in the hundreds of years following Jesus and the apostles and is often mistakenly perceived to be derived strictly from Scripture.

An astonishing prevarication is needed to correlate a word like “person” within trinitarian terminology. What does that mean, where did such a definition of “person” derive? The concept of Trinity is simply not derived from the text alone, but is woven from strands of Platonism other extraneous thought to form a theological fabrication entirely foreign to Jesus world. One must consciously choose to accept the terms of this paradigm (among many others) predicated on a priori grounds rather than evidence.

It is the word divine that needs defining, because our developed and traditional understanding with centuries of baggage is not compatible with theirs. Merely because characters of Jewish literature were considered divine in some sense or another did not place them in an ontological category or make them equal to the one true covenant God of Israel, Yahweh. Being “God” or “god” was not a one-size-fits-all systematic way of metaphysically defining one’s substance or essence. The world of the Bible nor is the Bible itself concerned with these matters which are wholly alien to it.

The objections almost uniformly raised come from viewing the material world through the eyes of Plato, the sinful nature and depravity of humanity through Augustine or Calvin and preconceived notions of penal atonement from Anselm or Luther. “But,” it is argued, “this is what the Bible teaches.” Because apologetics have come to rule the domain of Christendom’s populace, most are unaware that this is not the case. There is a large chasm between what scholarship has known for hundreds of years and what most Church going Christians believe to be true about their biblical paradigm. Some, remain willfully ignorant, not caring enough to investigate what scholarship and the academic community has to say.

Jesus does not have to be equal to Yahweh, the God of Israel or Yahweh himself to receive our loyalty, devotion and worship. That Jesus was the second member of a tri-personal deity never found its way into the message of the apostles, the narratives of the Gospels and Acts or Paul’s letters; far from it. Jesus was understood by his followers as the Messiah, which did not stipulate or have any semblance to ontological identity with Yahweh. Many times the wrong questions are being asked. Not “is Jesus god, or called god, but rather “what was god and what did it mean to them”? As moderns, we are prone toward imposing our own highly developed definition and terminology into what “god” means and subsequently attempt to extract a Jesus from that mold.

One must understand the world of the Bible and Jesus’ Bible - the Old Testament - to know what it is he and the apostles taught and believed. This does not minimize their words, but alternately puts them back in context where they have always belonged. The worldviews many maintain today are not due to explicit biblical teaching, but exceedingly evolved and entirely dependent on later tradition. Modern conceptions regarding Jesus’ identity as ontological deity originated from and belong to another world.

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