The Greatest Debate Never Debated... (Was Jesus an admirable moral teacher?)

anyone here want to go on record as not liking/admiring Jesus?
I can only recall former Doper badchad openly disdaining JC, mainly for teaching damnation for those who opposed him. Yeah, his one-note playing was annoying but I admired his candor.
Jesus-fans, Christian or not, please keep any responses civil.
If the Mods feel this is inappropriate or too disruptive, just shut it.

I’m not especially fond of the guy, but we know very little about him since the biblical accounts were written decades or centuries later.

OK, let’s assume that the biblical accounts of what he taught & purported to do are essentially accurate- for example, not necessarily that he was the Son of God or that he could heal the sick miraculously, but that he did claim to be the Son of God and a miraculous healer.

Well he raised the dead, which is known as Necromancy. I’m not a Bible scholar, so I don’t know how much later history of Lazarus is written, but the undead are known to feast on the living, in one way or another. So, I’m sure that all worked out well.

At another point he turned water into wine, at a wedding. What is not reported is what happened after the wedding party got hammered. What if the husband was a recovering alcoholic, and Jesus tempted him off the wagon, hmm? How many doors did that poor bride walk into because of that bastard, Christ. (seeing as his “Father” never married his Mother, I believe bastard is the correct term, no?)

And lets not forget what the master tells us. Murdering little shit. Of course, you could pawn that off as youthful indescretion, like GWB’s cocaine use.

The whole casting the moneylenders from the temple seems to demonstrate an Anti-capitalist mentality, as does the loaves and fishes incident. The soft pretzel vendor that day got totally screwed. The loss of revenue from that day put him in debt to his vendors. He went to the temple to inquire about a short term loan, but there was no one left to lend to him. His cart was reposesed, his family became destitute, and his daughter became a prostitute. On the upside, Jesus didn’t judge her for that, and the vendor found that now poor, it was easier for him to get into heaven, that to pass a camel through the eye of a needle. More on the lines of passing an irrated housecat through his urinary tract. Which comparativley, is much easier.

All in all, he comes across as quite an asshat. 3:)

Well, technically, necromancy is just talking to the dead, so if he brought the guy back to life and didn’t stick around to chat afterwards, he was fine.

Honestly, though, I’m not the biggest Jesus fan (assuming the Jesus involved in the Gospels is accurate), for a few reasons. Some off the top of my head are:

  1. He was impractical and convinced the world was ending. He commanded that his followers sell everything and wander around the countryside with him. He dismissed family relationships, by telling one of his disciples not to bury his father, and by dismissing his mother and siblings when they came to see him.

2: He was anti-rich, but at the same time, anti-poor, saying both that it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle than a rich man to go to heaven, and also, when one of his disciples asks him about the waste of an expensive perfume that could have been sold to feed the poor, “There will always be poor people, but I’m only around for a little while.”

3: He kept using the bible to justify his actions, but he didn’t know it very well. He said that Zechariah the son of Barachias was killed in the temple, when it was Zechariah the son of Jehoida. He justifies his disciples gathering grain on the Sabbath by talking about how David and his followers illegally. Not only does he make the mistake of equating his followers non-lifesaving actions with David’s lifesaving actions, he says that they did that in the days when Abithar was high priest, when really it was Abithar’s father Ahimelech.

How about the implications of the “Jesus is God” concept? If Jesus is God, then wasn’t He sacrificing Himself to Himself? When He came to Earth to redeem mankind for its sins, didn’t it occur to Him that He was the one who condemned mankind for those sins? Rather than go through thirty years of wandering the desert and being crucified, wouldn’t it have made more sense to just announce He had changed His mind?

Yeah, but I think the OP’s restricting the debate to the alleged non-supernatural actions of the allegedly historical Jesus. In other words, just considering JC as somebody who lived and died pretty much as the Bible describes but not necessarily as the incarnation of God, what’s your beef with him? Do you dislike him, not as a deity, but as a person?

(Me: No.)

I don’t think the sentiment that those not accepting the message of the disciples being consigned to a fate worse than Sodom and Gomorha as in Matt. 10:14-15. Nor do I think his claim to be there to cause family dissention as in Matt 10:34-36 is particularly admirable.

Sounds a little peevish. Iwant my way - or else.

Maybe Matthew was written during a time of dissention in the early movement and the writer was trying to frighten the dissenters back into the fold.

I think if you read the text we have about Jesus without trying to spin it into some kind of salvation doctrine. Reading His words carefully about Himself, I think you will find He did not condemn people for “sinning”. (Check out the story of the prostitude.) He did say He was the Son of God, but then we are all the sons and daughters of God. He did not claim He was part of any Godhead. He did not claim He was perfect. He did not claim He came to die on the Cross for our sins. He did start the healing process, He said many times “your faith has made you whole.” Other times He told the people He healed to go and tell no one. Yes, I believe He could heal, walk on water, change water into wine, and other miracles, not because He was God, but because He was attuned to the prime force of life (Chi). He was a Master Teacher. He understood the Oneness of all things and could use “the force” to do good things. If this sounds like Star Wars it is because George Lucas borrowed the idea from the ancient spiritual teachings, he did not originate the force. I think it the main reason for the success of the movies.

In all, Jesus’ teachings have helped billions of people over the years to find the path of love and understanding. He was a great spiritual leader. The religion that we call Christianity is not based on His teachings, but on Him, a mistake to my way of thinking.

Jesus worked hard to promote a monotheistic ( and therefore inherently intolerant ) religion that frankly is grim, cruel and all-round unpleasant. If he wanted to create a better, more enlightened religion he should have created a wholly new one, not tacked his teachings onto such an old and nasty base. On the other hand, if he didn’t care about the nasty stuff, that makes him nasty himself. Either way, that makes him a bad moral teacher IMHO; the only question in my eyes is he a bad person, a bad teacher or both.

I’m a little pissed at him for starting the great monotheist evangelical religions. The whole “only though me can you be saved” thing suddenly wiped the legitamacy out of most of the world’s people. Jews traditionally have no problem with non-Jews. But traditionally Christianity has problems with non-Christians. I think this is one of the roots of manifest destiny and Western imperialism.

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus claim to be the son of God…at least not in a literal sense. In Hebrew/Aramaic idom, that phrase was a figurative way to refer to kings or to other idividuals who were chosen or favored by God. It was not a literal implication of divine descendancy, nor was it unique to any single individual.

I think there is enough subjectivity in the sayings attributed to Jesus (and some of the sayings are fairly obscure as to their original intent) that it can’t really be settled either way. I do think the Q sayings, (eg. The parables, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes) are all deeply humanistic and compassionate, and I do believe that, on that level, Jesus was a very “moral” teacher. I don’t personally believe he ever made any claims to personal Godhood or demanded any sort of faith in himself as a divine figure, but even if he had, those would not constitute moral teachings (that’s not to say I think it would be immoral, I just think it would not have a moral component to it one way or the other).

Isn’t Christianity mainly a creation of Paul, AKA Saul of Tarsus?

One thing I find interesting (Man And His Gods, Homer W. Smith) is the legend of Herakles who:

[ul]Was of royal lineage.
Miraculously escaped mortal danger in infancy.
Was tempted in a wilderness.
His career was an ordeal.
His works got extraordinary publicity.
He was commissioned by God to exercise a beneficent authority over mankind.
He suffered spiritual agony in the face of supreme challenge.
He resigned himself to the will of his heavely father.
He was sacrificed.
His mortal remains miraculously disappeared.
He descended into hell.
He appeared to the women of his entourage.
He ascended into heaven in a cloud.[/ul]

Prof. Smith points out that Herakles was an important god in Tarsus, home town of Paul.

An aspect of Jesus’ teachings that tends to get lost in all the smoke and mirrors was his insistence that a personal relationship with God was more important than the blindly legalistic adhesion to the letter of the law advocated by the Pharisees. This is why he’s referred to as the “prophet of the heart” in Islam, and it was really a revolutionary idea for the time. Unfortunately for Jesus (or fortunately for man, depending on your take on things), it was also considered somewhat heretical by a too large number of people. So on the whole I would say that yes, even if one doesn’t buy modern Christianity at face value, as a religious teacher Jesus was just all right (whoa yeah!).

Thanks for the civil tone of all this- Of course, I did load this with the assumption that the Gospels give us an accurate picture of what Jesus said & claimed to do. I found that many people claim to be Jesus fans while loathing the Hebrew concept of YHWH or the Paulist version of C’nity- however, JC considered himself at the very least the Main Envoy for YHWH and I do think Paul was a faithful errand boy for taking JC’s message to the Gentiles, so some of the opposition to YHWH or Paul, I think should rightfully be aimed at JC himself.

Not to pick on lekatt, but I find the revision of JC as New Age Sibling of Humanity to be more objectionable than an honest revulsion to JC, the Messenger of YHWH and the Boss of Paul. If indeed JC was a New Age Sibling, he was still pretty clear that he was our Elder Sibling- he did not see himself as one of a democratic batch of Godlings, but as the First & Foremost. Also, everything lekatt objects to in the Orthodox portrait of JC (his exclusive or superior Divine Sonship, his dying for our sins, his perfection) can be found in the words attributed to him in the Gospels.

I think that’s an oversimplification, though. On the one hand, the Pharisees did demand extreme obedience; on the other hand, they also added considerably to the law (PDF). In other words, they didn’t ruly demand strict adherence to the letter of the law; quite the contrary, they took tremendous, inexcusable liberties with the Scriptural commands.

I would stand corrected if you pointed them out to me.
He also said:

Luke 17:20: Jesus said:

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

On the other hand I don’t want to get into a scripture posting contest. So forget about pointing them out to me. The Bible is open to all kinds of interpretations, that is why there are over 3000 Christian denominations, or so I am told. Jesus was about teaching love, and that is basically it.

I am not sure of the meaning of “New Age”, it too has fragmented into everything from Paganism to liberal Christianity to Wiccans. Hardly anything you can put your finger on. I catch as much flak from traditional Christians as I do from Atheists.

Here are my views on Jesus and what He taught in His time.

  1. Taking a look at the original Aesop’s fables (which lacked the final morale tacked on by later compilers), we can see part of Christianity’s contribution to humanity. Explicit and unapologetic cruelty or dishonesty is no longer considered clever or socially acceptable.

  2. I don’t know what to make of the historical Jesus. In the gospels, I see evidence of heavy editing and hagiography. I see little reportage. Hey, they didn’t label it, “Eyewitness News”: they called it, “Good News”, right?

  3. Some of what the Biblical Jesus says smacks of flakey guruism. Sure, it’s fine to tell your followers to treat a bullying Roman soldier with kindness – it’s even a pretty clever conflict resolution strategy. But when it’s made into a command, it leaves out a lot of practical issues of implementation.

Of course the historical Jesus may not have wanted, “Turn the other cheek” or “Give him (the Roman soldier) your cloak as well” to be interpreted as literal commands. I don’t know.

  1. I disagree with a fair amount with what Saint Paul wrote. But I like his letters, because I can recognize an actual human being in them. Paul is earnest, opinionated and a little frustrated that others don’t see things his way.

  2. Returning to point #1, Paul/Jesus successfully introduced an Axial age religion into Roman culture. In essence, I consider Christianity to be “Judaism for Pagans”. I am not surprised that recruitment was less successful among those who already practice Axial age religions (Judaism, Far Eastern Religions and eventually Islam).

The oral law (which later became the basis for the Talmud) was and is still believed in Judaism to have been transmitted to Moses at the same time as the written law. So it is false (at least in Jewish tradition) to say that the Pharisees “added to the law.” As far as Jesus and his contemporaries were concerned, there was no difference between the written and oral law. They were both given to Moses by God. The distinction made by your linked site (and by many other rather similarly biased sites on the net) are imposing an arbitrary division between those laws which was not and is not recognized in Judaism. I would also suggest that you should not rely on the Gospels for an accurate depiction of Pharisees. They are very polemic and not particularly informed.