Illustration: The Parable of the Lost SheepBy: Jan LuykenPublic Domain
Basically, for me, I distinguish between the Gospels and the other books like: Acts, Romans, Corinthians, etc. etc. the same way I distinguish between the Torah and the Talmud.
In short: The Talmud was written by Pharisees and the majority of the books following the Gospels were written by Paul of Tarsus who was a Pharisee.
What is very interesting to note about the books of Paul the Tarsus is that, for the most part, they do not comment on the life of Jesus or the stories found in the Gospels. What they really consist of are: Torah Commentaries. Paul talks about the faith of Abraham, Hagar, the meaning of temple/tabernacle rituals, but he speaks very little about Jesus and doesn’t even mention the Gospels or any of the parables found inside them.
Regardless, for me, the three major religions have one common metaphor which I believe sums up the situation pretty well: “a mountain”.
So, in Judaism, Moses goes up a mountain, receives a message, and brings that message down to ALL the people.
In Christianity, Jesus goes up a mountain, brings a few select disciples with him, and then comes down from the mountain swearing his disciples to secrecy.
In Islam, the question is asked: Did Mohammed go to the mountain? Or: Did the mountain come to Mohammed?
Basically, even in modern times, the earth is considered to be a school. So, a mountain could be described as: a densely packed piece of earth at a much higher level than the ocean. This then suggests that "a mountain" is a metaphor for: "a higher level of understanding".
Hence, the mountain Moses climbs has two names: “Sinai” or “Horeb” (or: “Horev”). “Sinai” means “scholarship” and “Horeb” means “dryness”.
In other articles we discussed the mistaken interpretation given by the rabbis that Moses was punished and not permitted to enter the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because he hit the rock in order to produce water. Since the Torah clearly states that God told Moses to hit the rock this explanation is ridiculous to say the least. The rabbis try to get around this by saying that Moses produced water from the rock twice. The first time he was permitted to hit the rock the second time he was not….
Many of the stories in the Old Testament are repeated, that doesn’t mean they happened twice !!! For example: Did Moses send twelve spies into the Land of Canaan twice ?
The “sin” of Moses was not standing strong against the complaints and demands of the people for water. It is the request made by Moses for water and, then actually providing water to the people, which is the reason that he was not allowed to lead the people into the land. After all, if God wanted the people to have water he would have provided it himself (i.e. He knew they were thirsty).
Remember, we said that the earth is a school, so what God is in effect saying is: Moses, by providing the people with water, has demonstrated he is not fit to be “headmaster" of the new school I am establishing.
We know this is, more or less, correct because Moses himself screams out at the people after he gives them the water: “You are fallen ones” and we have already noted that a mountain symbolizes a “high level of understanding". In addition to this, when the Ark of the Covenant, which contains God’s word, passes through the Jordan River the river stops flowing and the Ark never comes into contact with water ( Also: in Hebrew, the name “Jordan” means “to go down”).
So, the Mountain of Sinai was to provide Moses with a very high level of spiritual knowledge and this knowledge is associated with dryness. Moses, in turn, took this knowledge and brought it down to the level of understanding of the people, but they rejected it and demanded water and, later on, meat ( we have already shown in many articles that “meat” is a metaphor for: “the religious preachings of men”.
In short then: The Old Testament, and, in particular: The Torah, is dealing with knowledge for an entire people.
If we agree that: “a mountain” represents: “a high level of spiritual knowledge” then the answer to Mohammed’s riddle is quite clear: Mohammed was an un-educated man who received a revelation, therefore: “the mountain came to Mohammed” and basically, the only thing a Muslim must do is acknowledge that Mohammed is the Prophet of God. In other words: A Muslim must obey, it makes no difference if he understands or not, it is enough that Mohammed understands.
This then brings us to the Gospels….
In short, there are two major themes in the Gospels:
a) a) The fights and arguments with the Pharisees
b) b) How to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
One would think that “a messenger”, or “messiah” or “voice” of God would be a little bit more concerned with the problems of the day like: murder, rape, sexual abuse of children, etc. etc. etc.; but what we really find in the Gospels is that Jesus ONLY complains about the Pharisees giving charity in an ostentatious manner and praying in front of an audience (He also complained about exchanging money in the temple and selling pigeons).
I mean: Really ? These are problems? If the ONLY problem in Israel today was that people gave donations in an ostentatious manner, we would all think we are in Paradise !!!
Another extremely important point about the Gospels is that Jesus, for the most part, doesn’t even bother to try and answer the people’s questions. All the explanations we do receive in Gospels are contained in the conversations between himself and his disciples.
It is very nice that people say that the Jews did not listen to Jesus, but: How many times did Jesus tell his disciples not to reveal what they knew? How many times did Jesus say: “I will not tell you”?
So again: What’s going on here?
Jesus is a Jewish messiah (i.e. he was sent to speak to the Jewish people), but perhaps it would be better to use the words Jesus himself used: Jesus said that he was sent to: “the lost sheep of Israel”.
If this is correct and this Jewish messiah totally ignores the daily problems of the world around him (i.e. the Romans) and just focuses on seemingly minor problems of the Pharisees, then what this suggests is that all the problems of the world are irrelevant. Not only this, but this then implies that all the “good things” people do are also irrelevant.
Because: you can be the biggest anti Semite in the world, yet you must admit that Jews, for the most part, live well, they have good schools, good doctors, good social services, good banks, etc. etc. etc. In other words: Maybe the Pharisees give charity in an ostentatious manner, but at least they give charity! Not only this, but they encourage all the members of their community to give charity, to study and to work hard.
So: What’s the problem? What’s this guy Jesus complaining about? Isn’t living a comfortable lifestyle and having a good education a desirable thing?
Apparently not; if you take the Gospels literally…..But: What if the Gospels were not meant to be literal stories? For that matter: What if the Torah was not meant to be a literal story?
I mean: The Normandy invasions in France pitted 150,000 allied soldiers against a very strong, well dug in, enemy. Yet these 150,000 men succeeded… The Torah tells us that 600,000 plus Israelite soldiers were turned back by a local desert tribe on the border of Canaan. Are we really expected to believe that?
So then: If the Torah is a book of metaphors and stories designed to take an entire people to a higher level of understanding, Why does the Gospels only focus on individuals? And again: Why is Jesus so angry with the Pharisees?
In other words: What were the Pharisees teaching that, in the opinion of Jesus, prevented the individual from reaching the higher level of understanding called in the Gospels: The Kingdom of Heaven”?
Apparently, it had something to do with “enhancing the ego” and "searching for God".
Also: Is there a difference between “Christian thought” today and the ideas of Jesus? Just as one might ask: Is there a difference between “Jewish thought” today and the ideas of Moses?
If I could pick one image to summarize these issues, I think I would select: “the pig”.
In Islam: the pig is interpreted literally and it is believed that if one eats, or even touches a pig, one jeopardizes his chance of entering the literal place known as: “Paradise”, because the pig is an “un-clean” animal.
In Judaism, the pig is also considered to be: “un clean”, but in reality what is written in Hebrew is “impure”. The punishment for eating “impure” foods is: to be cut off from one’s people.
What is very important to understand here is that the word used for: “fore skin” in Hebrew is the same word used for a piece of fruit from a tree less than three years old. It is also forbidden to eat this fruit and the Torah goes on to say that the Children of Israel who are not circumcised will also be cut off from their people.
Christianity is quite different, because they believe that, at one time, pigs were un clean, but afterwards Jesus declared all foods to be clean and therefore now it is perfectly okay to eat pork.
First off, as we have just mentioned, the Torah does not say clean and un clean, it says pure and impure.
Second: Jesus did not say “all foods were clean” and he certainly didn’t say “all foods were pure”.
What Jesus said was: we do not become “impure” from what enters into our mouth, we become “impure” from what comes out of our mouth….and, just take my word for it on this one, Jesus was NOT talking about vomiting….
In practically this entire series of articles in the Jerusalem Post we have spoken about: “food being a metaphor for knowledge”.
Therefore: “impure food” is a metaphor for: “impure knowledge” (mixed doctrines).
We also said that: “meat” is a metaphor for: “religious preachings of men” and in other articles we have repeatedly pointed out that, in Hebrew, “The Gospels of Mark” can actually be translated as: “The Meats of Mark”
Therefore, a person is “impure” as a result of what he says, because he is a source of distortions about God’s word. In other words: If I “listen to ‘impure teachings’”, represented metaphorically by “eating ‘pork’”, that doesn’t make me “impure” per se, because I can reject the words of the speaker and forget his words. BUT !!! If I repeat his “impure” message then I am a source of impurity.
Put another way: Only teachers are “impure”, students who reject the message of a teaching are still pure. Nevertheless, it is better not to hear these teachings, accordingly: anyone who “eats impure foods” (accepts an impure teaching) shall be cut off from his people and this source of possible further contamination shall be eliminated (So even today we say: “He swallowed whole everything he was told”).
Okay then: So where does all this leave us?In the parable of: "The Prodigal Son" the man finds himself "starving", surrounded by pigs, and being reduced to eat the husks that they eat to stay alive. Suddenly, he turns back to his father, rejects his previous lifestyle and returns home to share the bread of his father.The father says: "....my son was dead, but now he is alive..." "....he was lost, but now is found..."This then brings us to the concept of; "being lost"
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus compares “the sheep” to “a little child”. We have also noted in other articles that Bathsheba the mother of King Solomon was compared to a lamb and the name: “Rachel”, the mother of Joseph, means “a female sheep”.
And, of course, John the Baptist called Jesus: “the lamb of God” and Jesus is also known as: “the word of God”.
What Jesus is therefore saying through his metaphors about “lost sheep” is that, inside every individual, there is a small voice that is capable of communicating to us the word of God. If one lives in an isolated community, and follow the teachings of Moses, this is good because it will increase your probability of developing the ability to hear this small voice within. If, however, you allow your community to become contaminated with the teachings of men, and the interpretations of men, then you will begin to focus ONLY on the things in life which are important to men.
Thus, Moses could not enter into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because he heeded the demands of the people, just as King Saul lost his right to head a dynasty because he heeded the voice of the people and used Amalikite sheep in a sacrifice to God. King Saul was un able to distinguish between the value of God’s words and the words of the Amalikite God. For King Saul, Amalikite “sheep” were also valuable and worthy to be used in sacrifices (In other words: King Saul was an: "ecumenical king").
So, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were focusing all their efforts on studying their own words and no longer felt the need to listen to God’s words. Even worse, they denied that God even had the ability to speak directly to his people. Hence, even today, the rabbis teach it is impossible to understand what God says without their help and, by the way, the Roman Catholic Church teaches the exact same thing, which makes sense since Paul of Tarsus was a Pharisee.
In conclusion: Jesus never said to stop following Moses and he never said all the laws in the Torah are null and void. What he was saying was that one must stop focusing on outside rituals and traditions and concentrate on trying to hear "the lost voice" within, the voice of the little child, the voice of the lost sheep of Israel….