My intention at the moment is to create an outline view of where I believe we are in history. I’m not going to delve into any particular aspect in detail on this first pass. It will seem that I’m passing along some controversial ideas in a rather offhand way. But I want to get up to the present day before working my way back again. It’s hard to keep people’s attention on the Internet.

Before picking apart the entity we call Christianity, I need to establish who I believe Jesus was. There is no figure in the history of the West who’s more polarizing and less understood by both his adherents and those who disparage him. If you go to the New Age section of a bookstore, you’ll find books with a lot of farfetched ideas about Christ. For example, some have noticed parallels between Jesus’ and Buddha’s teachings, so they theorize about Jesus’ lost years, when he supposedly traveled to India to study Buddhism. Many will take what I have to say here as being much in the same vein. But my ideas here are not idiosyncratic. Others have said what I’m saying, but it gets drowned out in the fight between those who believe Jesus was the only son of God sent here to save mankind from their sins, and those who believe it’s all just a bunch of oppressive bullshit that’s not worth thinking about.

If you strip the mythology out of the Bible what you have left is the teachings of a sage—the same teachings as transmitted by Buddha, Lao Tzu, Dogen, Hui Neng, and others. A sage is someone who has attained enlightenment, and the sage’s teachings are instructions on how to liberate oneself from the ego. That’s what religion is really about, although it persistently gets lost in the misrepresentations by followers who didn’t go all the way. Whenever something that calls itself religion dedicates itself to something other than enlightenment, it’s not real religion. So, again, if you strip away the mythology, Jesus is telling people to abandon the pursuit of success in this world, to give up your home, your old set of friends, the means of making a living, and instead to devote yourself to a life of focused inner search (the kingdom of heaven is within), total honesty, constant fairness in your dealings, fasting. You’re not supposed to try to satisfy your needs through your own efforts. Anything you actually need will be given to you without you going to look for it. It’s all very explicit. It’s a spiritual path. But it’s not taught by the churches because they got distracted by the mythology. From what I’ve seen, the more people believe in the mythology, the less attention they pay to the teachings.

Buddha and Christ walked the same path and taught the same things. They were both homeless wanderers who lived off the alms of others. Karma is the same thing as “as you sow so shall you reap.” Jesus didn’t have to go to India to learn about it. It’s a universal understanding inherent within all of us. Some people say, “But Buddhism is atheistic” (many Buddhists say so), while Christ taught about God the Father. I think that’s a big misunderstanding, which I’ll take up in a future post.

11 Comments

  1. I so agree. I simply reject the mystical aspect of Jesus, and see him as a teacher, similar to Buddha and Ghandhi. Interested in hearing other views.

    1. Author

      I accept a mystical idea of Jesus, but I think we mean different things by that. I think Jesus was a great mystic, like Buddha—-a mystic being one who through a great effort sees to the core of existence. I think what you’re saying is that you reject what I’m calling the mythological idea of Jesus.

  2. You’re completely ignoring all context and other important differences.

    1. Author

      What context are you referring to? Which important differences?

      1. The Hebrew context. The Biblical context. Take Luke, chapter 24 for example. In verse 27, the resurrected Jesus is educating some apostles about who he really is in the context of the Hebrew scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament): “27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.“

        This is a man claiming to have risen from the dead by the power of an almighty God, explaining to his followers that his story has been unfolding since the dawn of time.

        Completely different from monks spending their lives meditating in caves.

        1. Author

          What you’re calling context, I’m calling mythology. We have no idea who actually wrote these stories and what their agendas were. Jesus didn’t write them. If you want to believe that God dictated them, you can do that, but you don’t have any real basis for doing so. But if the mythology can’t be depended on, the teachings can. You can test them out and see if they are true. But they are radical teachings. You have to completely alter your life to put them into practice. Unless you do that, you can’t really know what they’re about. Your line about “monks spending their lives meditating in caves” shows that you have a bias and cultural ignorance. Buddha didn’t spend his life in a cave, for instance. Like Jesus, he was out among the people teaching.

          1. So when you read all of the things Jesus is quoted as saying, what allows you to discern wether or not he actually said a certain thing or not? Because even if you were to ignore the majority of the Bible and only read the words that Jesus is reported to have spoken, you would be seeing a lot of references to God the Father, sin and righteousness, forgiveness of sin, future judgement, prophets and prophecies of the past, predictions of the future, Satan, casting out demons, healings/miracles, his own death and its significance. These are the prominent themes of Jesus’ recorded words. What allows you to accurately pick and choose what you think Jesus actually said?

          2. Author

            Do you believe that Jesus instructed people to hate their wives, and that someone standing around listening dutifully wrote it down accurately, and that we now reading it today should follow his instruction?

  3. 1: It’s certainly possible he said something to this effect. What he hypothetically meant by that is up for debate. The actual meaning may or may not have been lost in translation. You could also ask the same question about literally every sentence in the Bible attributed to Jesus, so I’m not sure what the point is in singling out any particular passage.

    2: I can’t say for sure how these gospels were compiled, but I would imagine it was through oral recounting rather than someone writing down the words as they were spoken.

    3: I personally haven’t come to a comfortable enough understanding yet of Jesus and the Bible to be able to recommend that everything spoken by Jesus should be followed verbatim.

    What allows you to accurately pick and choose what you think Jesus actually said?

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