What the New York Instances will get fallacious about Jesus
Peter Wehner, who wrote in the New York Times on Christmas Eve, like so many Christians before him, tried to make Jesus relevant to contemporary readers by mapping current concerns onto first-century texts to describe what his article had forgotten Called radicalism of Jesus Christ. His barrier-breaking social justice warrior, Jesus, may be appealing, but this portrayal is neither faithful to the gospels nor to history.
Wehner pulls Jesus out of the Jewish context and then wrongly categorizes Judaism of Jesus’ time as a representative of the toxicity of today’s contemporary culture. The play isn’t just bad journalism; It’s bad theology and bad history. Of the numerous errors in his short essay, we biblical scholars mark seven, a good biblical number.
First, he insists that Jesus be associated with “outcasts” – the short article uses the term seven times – such as tax collectors. He then glossed over this designation with “impure … inviolable … marginalized … abandoned and despised”. Tax collectors were not expelled; on the contrary, Jesus tells a parable about a tax collector praying in the Jerusalem temple. What is remarkable – and ignored in this piece – is that Jesus connects with people who are offending the common good, the old versions of inside traffickers, drug dealers, and people traffickers, and tells them to repent.
Second, Wehner finds it amazing that Jesus healed unclean people like a bleeding woman and a man with leprosy. In doing so, he ignores Jewish precedents such as the prophet Elisha, who cures Naaman’s leprosy. Jesus does not remove ritual uncleanliness, a natural condition that all people will experience at one time or another. Jesus is more likely to restore purity to people with chronic illnesses. It is remarkable to be absent again: Jesus practices free health care. Also noteworthy: people who seek care approach Jesus; You stand up for yourself and set a good example.
Third, Wehner insists that Samaritans “were despised by the Jews”. He does not realize that the hostility was mutual and that Samaritans were attacking Jewish pilgrims who came from Galilee to worship in the Jerusalem temple. He then claims that Jesus was breaking theological barriers by speaking to a Samaritan woman. On the contrary, Jesus tells her that her religion is wrong. That creates barriers and does not promote diversity. After all, Wehner sees this woman as worthy of condemnation because of her marriage history and then takes the lack of condemnation of Jesus as a blessing. On the contrary, if she were worthy of judgment, her fellow Samaritans would not have heard her news about Jesus. What is remarkable and sad is that for two thousand years Christians have been condemning a woman to show that Jesus did not do so.
Fourth, Wehner assumes that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about class, whereby the hero is not “an influential priest, not a person of social rank or privilege, but a hated foreigner”. Wrong again. The priest and the Levite who ignore the wounded in the trench are not privileged; Village priests should not be confused with the high priest in Jerusalem, and the Levites were neither influential nor socially prominent at the time. Conversely, the Samaritan has wealth, and so he can take the injured person to an inn and write a blank check to the landlord. It is noteworthy, among other things, that the Samaritan stopped to help despite the presence of bandits on the street. It is also noteworthy that he paid for long-term care.
Fifth, we find the common but misleading view that Jesus more or less invented feminism by speaking to women. The system in which Jesus flourished was patriarchal, but so was Jesus, as confirmed by his 12 male disciples. It is noteworthy that the Gospels teach us a lot about first century Jewish women; They owned houses, managed their own funds, had freedom of travel, appeared in synagogues and the Jerusalem temple, and some served as patrons of Jesus. The Gospels describe Jewish women who are not marginalized and ostracized, but prominent and welcome.
Sixth, we read that Jesus “understood that the weak and dispossessed often experience God in a different way – as a gracer, a source of consolation, a savior”. The correct term for this idea that Jesus invented a new and better God is “Marcionism,” a heresy named after the early Christian teacher who claimed that the gods of the Old Testament and New Testament were different deities. Jews understood grace; They saw God as a source of consolation (this is why the Psalms remain so relevant to both Jews and Christians). They understood salvation. They understood the need to care for orphans and widows, poor and strangers long before the first century.
While quoting Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 speech from Lewiston, Illinois, about the “divine image and likeness,” Wehner fails to note that Lincoln is quoting Genesis 1, about the basic dignity of all human beings. The Jewish rabbis responded to this text and remarked: “Precious is the person who was created in the image [of God]. “What is remarkable is Wehner’s complete rejection of what the Church calls the“ Old Testament ”and post-biblical Jewish teaching.
Seventh, and most disturbing, Wehner suggests that Jews viewed disabled people – the paralyzed, the blind – as “worthless and useless.” On the contrary, the Gospels consistently show disabled people, especially children, embedded in family and friendship networks who are loved and cared for by fellow Jews. Isaac (Genesis 27: 1), Samson (Judges 16:21), and some early rabbinical teachers were blind and neither worthless nor useless. Stereotyping the disabled is never helpful.
In the name of inclusivity and the need for humility and self-criticism about one’s own myopia, Wehner showed precisely this myopia to Jews both in the time of Jesus and today. He pulls Jesus out of his historical context and ignores the only scripture – what the Church calls the “Old Testament” and the source of the “radical teachings” of the Imago dei and social justice – Jesus and his disciples followed. This is not good news, whether for Jesus or for his followers today.