Note to Reader: These dialogues are no more or less fictitious than those of any Christian who claims to have “actual” conversations with God or Jesus. I would claim I am more qualified than most to speak on Jesus’ behalf given the decades of painstaking research I have committed to this topic.
Me: First, I would like to say how grateful and honored I am to be having these conversations with you Jesus.
Jesus: I think it helps dispel misconceptions about me which may have unhappy consequences. I must tell you I have had the chance to read some of the Christian writings about me and they contain some inaccuracies and disturbing things.
Me: I’m glad you have. It will make our discussions much easier. I think at this point I should emphasize that while we will not agree on many things, the goal of these conversations is to expose our differences and the reasons for them.
Jesus: On that note, what is your biggest disagreement with me?
Me: I do not share your view on God. I don’t think God favors one race over another, if he does exist. The Hebrew writings representation of God seems excessively tribalistic and bellicose. It is hard to reconcile a God of love with the God who indiscriminately endorses the slaughter of anyone who does not worship him. The only thing of which the Canaanites were guilty was not being born an Israelite. It seems unfair and unjust to judge them on this factor.
Jesus: I would argue the evidence for His existence is overwhelming. The writings you mention are full of miracles he performed to demonstrate his superiority over all other gods. The prophets he inspired to write of future events attest to his sovereign knowledge. Moses explicitly describes how he created the world in its majesty for which there is no other explanation, as well as Adam and Eve, who were the first people created and the reason sin exists. The holy law which Moses was given is the standard against which everyone is measured. What other explanation for all this could there be?
Me: That is most certainly what I would believe if I were in your sandals but the world has changed immensely in the two thousand years from when you were born. I have the advantage of a perspective which you could not possibly know or appreciate from where you are. We know a great deal more about everything you have mentioned. The world and everything in it and beyond is not the mystery it was when you lived. Given limitations in your understand which you cannot begin to imagine, it is impossible to have this discussion. While I can sympathize with your views, I must reject them. But let’s set aside our differences and do our best to talk about those issues where we have common ground.
Jesus: I believe we were going to talk about my being God and man in a single body, though it seems inconceivable and unfounded even from the Christian writings I read.
Me: Again, let me point out your disciples would not have thought this nor those who composed the New Testament. They had a much more constrained and realistic view of your divinity. It was only when Christianity broke free of Judaism that its view of you expanded. If you were to study the intervening centuries you would discover there were powerful influences which led to this and many other doctrines which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament or Hebrew writings.
Jesus: From what I have read, there is no question the writings have an exalted view of who I was and am. My resurrection alone which is assumed throughout is the clearest example of my divinity and elevates me beyond mortal status.
Me: The writers were essentially working backwards trying to piece together who you were prior to your birth. Because you were raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to be in God’s holy presence, you had to be more than a man. But did you become more than a man because of your resurrection? Or, because you were chosen from birth and anointed, God raised you from the dead?
Jesus: I got the impression from reading through the gospels, I had a pre-existence that was divine but it stopped short of my being God. The holy writings are explicit there is only one God so I could not possibly be God no matter what anyone thought or said. It is absolutely contradictory to every facet of Judaism. Anything suggestion otherwise is indefensible.
Me: I cannot begin to tell you how confusing and complex this topic became centuries later. Christianity began to be seen as an aberration independent of Judaism, thus the many writings in circulation were anything but uniform lending to many varied ideas about you. There is not the slightest evidence, however, your Jewish disciples or the early Christians entertained the blasphemous view of you being equal to the supreme God of Israel. But belief in your divinity would later be used to construct this concept more due to political exigency than theological honesty.
Jesus: That looks like a different conversation. As I indicated before, my closest descales alone knew who I was. In all our time together, I never indicated I was more than a humble Galilean whom the Lord choose to anoint as his holy prophet. I was a servant, though I did briefly serve in the role of king of the Jews at the behest of a large number of Passover pilgrims, it was in an entirely human capacity. Much of what is recorded I said and did is completely untrue. I found the story of my birth particularly odd and confusing.
Me: What about it was most puzzling?
Jesus: That I was conceived without a human father. The verse in Isaiah the writer cites this is based on has nothing to do with me. It is as though I am reading about a different person born in Bethlehem. There are many strange details in the stories like angelic visitations, magi and king Herod’s desire to kill me but let’s start with the virgin birth.
Me: Every year sometime around The Feast of Dedication, Christians around the world celebrate your birth. It is called, “Christmas,” and is based on the belief your mother Mary would become pregnant by God’s holy spirit while still a virgin and engaged to your father. Your birth would therefore be miraculous. It is claimed this text in Isaiah you mentioned supports it.
“The Lord himself will give you a sign, Behold, the virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son and you will call him, with us is God.”
Jesus: I am familiar with this text thought I remember it differently. It refers to a specific situation when Judah was under attack from Israel and Aram. The child, Immanuel, was to signal Assyria’s involvement which would mitigate Judah’s suffering by forcing the retreat of the two besieging nations. The use of the word, “virgin” is somewhat confusing. I think it refers to the prophet’s wife who had already had a child.
Me: The reason you remember the verse differently is because the writer who quotes it did so from the Greek and not the Hebrew version of the prophet. The original Hebrew uses a word for a woman of marriageable age not specifically a virgin, and suggests she is currently pregnant when Isaiah identifies her. The source of Matthew’s work reads into this verse an esoteric meaning which completely changes its intent.
Jesus: It was not uncommon to believe God could anoint a child even in the womb but what you’re suggesting is unheard of.
Me: The theory he introduces maintains you had a human mother and a divine Father which accounts for your dual natures. It also supports the claim your birth were evidence of prophetic fulfillment, thereby validating it and your messiahship. Christians unjustifiably place more theological weight on this verse than any other single verse in all of Scripture.
Jesus: Do they believe the child Isaiah is describing had a heavenly father as well?
Me: That’s a good question. If Isaiah meant a virgin birth then, it would require a miraculous conception similar to yours the product of which would be a divine child. Of course this is unacceptable. Therefore, either they have to change the word “virgin” back to “young woman” or claim this child was never born during Isaiah’s time but was in reference to your future birth eight hundred years in the future.
Jesus: If the former, then it no longer can refer to me as direct prophecy since it is changed significantly, so it must be the latter. However, this completely nullifies its significance for Isaiah’s audience and contradicts the purpose of the “sign.” It was this which specifically signaled Judah’s succor. How do Christians explain it?
Me: For the most part they don’t. Few take the time to investigate the origins of these texts because either they don’t want to know the truth, don’t have the time or knowledge to investigate its intended meaning or trust its validity as a matter of faith in the New Testament writing. It all goes back to putting implicit confidence in the authority of these writers.
Jesus: Theoretically one can make almost any claim one wants to, but how does one explain it on a practical or theological level? I was shocked to read about many miracles I was said to have performed which I never did. I can only assume these were attempts to show me as having supernatural powers consistent with my alleged deity. However, it still stops short of me being God.
Me: As I said before, the fault really falls upon Christians many centuries later who took your divinity and raised it to its ultimate level making you co-equal with God. They were unbound by any authoritative writings or official “church” position to reign in their ideas. Using some of these early writings, they were able to make outrageous claims since they alone had the power of determining what would be the official teachings of Christianity. The most divisive topic was the question of your two natures. How you were simultaneously God and man, to what degree of each and how they interacted either independently or as one were hotly debated. It was all extremely complex and confusing.
Jesus: So if I was considered more than man but less than God prior to this, what exactly was I?
Me: Theories abounded because as I said there was no one piece of authoritative writing to contain speculation. From some of the earliest writings contained in the New Testament, it was commonly thought you were the pre-existent ‘Logos’ who emanated from God as a separate, personal entity who created all things. This made you eternal because you were part of God’s divine essence but not equal since God created you as a distinct personality at a point in time. Then you were incarnated or “enfleshed” as a baby. You grew up fully aware of your divinity but it was subsumed by your humanity. You “chose” to hide your deity and function purely as a human, in order to identify with mankind in every way. You lived a perfect sinless life the purpose of which was so you could die in place of all people for their sin, thereby giving man access to eternal life.
Not to belabor this point, but originally the benefits of your death and resurrection was limited to Israelites and proselytes alone according to the book of Acts. In a bizarre theological twist Paul made his case your death and resurrection rendered the law obsolete which meant all Jews had to abandon it completely to partake of the salvation you offered. As we touched on before, he was not content to work within Judaism but advocated a complete departure from it.
Jesus: It is a wonderful theory if it were true. It sounds completely foreign to Judaism and more like a Greek style of religion.
Me: One of the benefits of the “Logos doctrine” was it combined elements of Greek and Hebrew thinking giving it philosophical respectability in a Hellenistic culture which celebrated a more sophisticated approach to religion.
Jesus: I still maintain if it were true, I would have informed my disciples at least. It is unfortunate everything written about me was by those who did not intimately know me. If Christianity had remained closely connected to Judaism, it would have turned out much differently. At least one of the Christian writings describes me as less than God.
Me: I think the book to which you’re referring is Hebrews. It describes you as the highest in the created order. But while on earth as a man you had to assume a role “inferior to angels.” Your death was seen as your crowing achievement. Christians should have been content with this understanding if they wanted to remain true to how your first followers perceived you.
Jesus: The gospels repeatedly suggest my death was pre-determined. I was never supposed to be an earthly messiah even though I am portrayed as one.
Me: Yes, you were, “A lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
Jesus: If that’s the case, it was part of the Lord’s sovereign plan and my arrest and death were no accident. This raises a big question of culpability. How could my fellow Israelites be guilty of rejecting me as messiah if God intended me to die so I could be resurrected? And, had my people not rejected me, according to Paul, Gentiles would never have had the opportunity to accept me as their Savior. In Paul’s book to the Romans he builds an incredible theory around the Lord deliberately and sovereignly ordering his entire ministry to the Gentile nations at the expense of Israelites. I came to help my people yet according to Christians all I did was bring them harm.
Me: There are many unanswerable questions surrounding Christianity which are often considered unknowable mysteries reserved for God alone. It is a convenient way for Christians to avoid confronting the many logistical implausibilities and inconsistencies of their faith. I would add, had you returned in the first century, when expected, Christianity would have made a lot more sense as described in the writings.
Jesus: Why is that?
Me: The link to Judaism was undeniable and essential for Christianity’s legitimization especially when it became primarily Gentile. Paul made the argument this “temporary” hardness, to which you just referred, allowed for the infusion of Gentiles until your imminent return at which time “all Israel” would recognize your messiahship. In his mind, the spectacle of you descending from heaven in your glorified body with the resurrected bodies of all those who had believed in you, would result in the nation unreservedly accepting you as their messiah. But two thousand years later, justification for this delay is extremely thin and almost impossible to reconcile with the New Testament writings not to mention the Hebrew writings.
Jesus: Exactly how do Gentiles account for the restoration of Israel when Israel has rejected Christianity from the beginning?
Me: Remember in our last conversation when I mentioned there was a specific sect of Christians called “evangelicals” who had contrived a theory to explain Israel’s role in the Lord’s sovereign plan?
Jesus: Yes, we were going to explore this topic more fully.
Me: I think we will save it for our next conversation because it is involved and complicated meriting a separate discussion. I will say like almost everything, Christians differ widely on this subject as well.
Jesus: I look forward to our next conversation.