Saturday, September 22, 2012

Introduction Part 4: Terms for the Divine; and What's the lowdown on the Pharisees, Sadducees and Pontius Pilate

Terms for the Divine


The actual term "God" is a Proto-Germanic word which may have originally meant "that which is invoked" or "to pour or to pour a libation." To keep things simple I will use "God" as the generic term for God rather than introduce a Hebrew term.


YHWH is God’s name in the Hebrew Bible.  Most scholars believe the word, completed with vowels, would be Yahweh, pronounced “Ya-way.”  Based on Exodus 3.14-16, it is generally believed that God’s name Yahweh means “I-Am.  Exodus 3.14 “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  Out of extreme reverence, the name Yahweh would not have been spoken by any Jew in Yeshua’s time, except by the high priest at the altar in the Temple Holy of Holies once a year.  Instead, “Adonai” is the word substituted in place of Yahweh.  Adonai means “Lord” or “The Lord” in a form which is only to be used for God and which emphasizes great excellence or magnitude.  To be consistent with the culture, I will use "Adonai" as the name of Yahweh God in keeping with the Jewish practice of Yeshua's time.


Shekhinah means “Presence” or “The Presence” of God.  She is the feminine manifestation of God with the people of Israel; she is the Spirit of God.  Shekhinah was the Presence in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud/fire that led Israel out of Egypt, the Presence that met Moses on the mountain to give the commandments, and the Presence that dwelt in the Holy of Holies.  Shekinah has a direct lineage to the Christian concept of Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God.  Shekinah is the name Yeshua used when he says Holy Spirit in our translations.  Shekhinah, the Holy Spirit, is called Yeshua’s Mother in the Gospel of the Hebrews.  I will use "Shekinah" as the name of the Holy Spirit.  In the ancient, extrabiblical Jewish writings of the Targumim, Talmud and Midrash, the term "Shekinah" is often used instead of "God". However, in other places the term "Shekinah" is used to describe only an intermediary or manifestation of God.  But apart from prior ideas, ultimately it should be clear that God and God’s Spirit are one in the same.  So we should just be talking about the One God Yahweh-Shekhinah, which would mean “I Am-Presence” or “I Am-The Presence.”!


Then proceeding on to the Christian concept of Trinity, things can really get confusing, but we are still talking about the One God.  Having established the Holy Spirit is feminine, I think the concept of Trinity as Father-Mother-Child makes more sense than the traditional western Church's sexist Father-Son-Holy Spirit. (A son from just a father?!) 

The Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit Mother provided the love and grace for the human Yeshua to completely and freely accept their love and will, and thus he became the Mashiah, the Human Child of the Trinity. This logically coherent form of the Trinity has for centuries been obscured by sexism.  Just to conclude:  I will use the above concept of Trinity:  "Mother-Father-Child."

Pharisees, Sadducees and Pontius Pilate

The Pharisees were NOT the bad guys!  The Pharisees did follow lots of rules but they would have been for relaxing or bending rules to help people.  The Pharisees were for the people, and the common people liked the Pharisees!  They may have argued vehemently with Yeshua over interpretation of Torah, but that’s what Rabbis who disagreed did (still do, and maybe Christians too!?) all the time without killing each other.  There just wasn’t that much at stake.  So why are the Pharisees portrayed so badly in the gospels?  After the temple was destroyed in the 66-70 C.E. war, the only two sects of Jews left were the Pharisees and the Messianic Jews who followed Yeshua.  So the Pharisees were the competition, and they got slurred in the gospels!  Real Christian of the Christians, wasn’t it?!

The Sadducees WERE the bad guys!  The Sadducees controlled the temple, its revenues and treasury. They were collaborators with the Romans and took bribes from them to keep the people under control. The common people did not like them.  They were notoriously corrupt.  (When the Jewish war of rebellion started in Jerusalem in 66 C.E. the first people the Zealots killed for being collaborators were the Sadducees!)  The Sadducees had Yeshua killed because he threatened their position, power and wealth. He called them out for not taking care of the needy, for taking advantage of widows, misusing the temple funds, and for collaborating with the Romans.  Most of that is not in the gospels because keeping it a “religious” issue makes it safe,  no risk of being accused of stirring the masses up against Caesar over poor treatment.  If you attack the Sadducees who were Roman collaborators, you are attacking Rome and Caesar.  The early Christians wanted to stay on the good side of Rome, so they portrayed the Romans as good guys.  The Sadducees are all dead, no axe to grind there.  As noted above, the Pharisees are their main competition, so they place the blame on them and later in John’s gospel on Jews in general.

Pontius Pilate was a ruthless Roman governor of Judea.  He was notorious for executing people without trial.  He would not have agonized over executing Yeshua or whether he might be executing an innocent man (after all, he was just some Jewish peasant).  Nor would he have had a long Socratic discussion with him about truth.  Pilate put down anyone who started to gain a following among the people.  Yeshua probably did not go after Pilate directly.  Yeshua was concerned with bringing his people back to the true commandments of Adonai, so he would have held the Sadducees feet to the fire over issues of social justice and corruption, but Pilate then is indirectly indicted as well.  He most certainly stepped on Pilate’s toes because of Pilate’s abuses of the oppressed people of Israel, and he got executed for it.

Well I think that gives you enough background to orient you to the gospel, Yeshua’s Kin-dom of Heaven.

Thanks for being part of this process.

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