Thursday, January 27, 2011

What did he say?

I say with some laughter that this is the last of the major loose ends in this series of articles…and it comes from my curiosity about the interesting use in the Bible of  “Son of Man” vs. “Son of God.” “Son of Man” is used frequently throughout the Bible, 178 times in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament…even Jesus seems to describe himself as "Son of Man." Its a wonderfully rich description, representing our entire race.  “Son of God,” on the other hand, is used only 41 times, all in the New Testament, and more often spoken by others than by Jesus. 
Easy, you say…Jesus is the Son of God, so of course he is mentioned only in the New Testament.  He describes himself as both the Son of Man and the Son of God. 
Actually, we have a problem trying to find out how Jesus really thought about himself – or what he really said. You see, the earliest of the canonical gospels, Mark, wasn’t written until about forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew and Luke were written after that, and John was written some seventy years after his death. John is the most reflective of the growing traditions about Jesus rather than about what Jesus said and did.[1]  It seems no one was taking notes when he spoke, or if they were, they are lost in the dust of time.
So where does that leave us? Can't we believe anything the Bible says about Jesus?
I offer this:  Whether or not a man named Jesus came to say and do these things, its not the man, but the teachings we follow. Those teachings, profound and wonderful, lead to the tradition that says this incredible man came to embody all of those God-like characteristics that we call the Christ Spirit. And, if his teachings are even vaguely reported correctly, he said we are ALL children of a loving God, and therefore we are all sons and daughters of God, carrying that God-substance within us, the Christ Spirit. I know I have the Christ Spirit within me, and so do you. I know it, and I can feel it.
I'll back this up with my favorite Hebrew Bible passage, Jeremiah 31:33, “…This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
There is continuity there, Sons and Daughters of Man. We are also the Sons and Daughters of God. We have the Christ Spirit within us. It is written on our hearts.

[1] A good place to begin learning about modern Biblical research is the source I just used, Marcus Borg’s “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time.” Fascinating book.  He manages to marry a thinking person’s approach and a deep-seated faith without slighting either.

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