Does the Divinity of Jesus Matter?
“I believe in Jesus’ message in the Bible. I do not know if he was the divine son of God or not. I do not believe that it matters.”
I am going to go backwards today on this statement. Let’s talk about whether Jesus is the divine son of God or not. The single event that got me thinking about the divinity of Jesus happened while watching Religulous by Bill Maher. Love him or hate him, it’s a great movie. He even talks to our friend Ken Ham who recently had his little public debate stunt with Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Here is the quote that got the wheels of doubt turning in my head (from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0815241/quotes )
“Bill Maher: But the Jesus story wasn’t original.
Man at The Holy Land Experience: How so?
Bill Maher: [an explanation appears in subtitles as The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” plays] “Written in 1280 BC, The Book of the Dead describes a God, Horus… Horus is the son of the god Osiris… born to a virgin mother. He was baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer… who was later beheaded. Like Jesus, Horus was tempted while alone in the desert… Healed the sick… The blind… Cast out demons… And walked on water… He raised Asar from the dead. ‘Asar’ translates to ‘Lazarus’. Oh yeah, he also had 12 disciples. Yes, Horus was crucified first… And after 3 days, two women announced… Horus, the savior of humanity… had been resurrected.”
Now there is debate on the internet on how accurate or inaccurate Bill Maher is with his “facts” on Horus. It is hard to fact check against this paragraph without reading The Book of the Dead yourself. But thanks to the internet, you can!
If you are interesting in a summary of similarities between Jesus and Horus, here is a link http://www.near-death.com/experiences/origen046.html. And on THAT website, you can link to a site here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/ which is the Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated for our reading pleasure.
I myself do not need to dig into whether Bill Maher is right or wrong about the Book of the Dead. Even the one blog I found that sought to shoot holes in Maher’s claims admitted that many of these similarities exist between Horus and Jesus, but that there was no way early Christianity knew enough about the Horus story to make those connections because they would have needed to be cherry picked from the Book of the Dead texts. It is not an impossible thing honestly. You would have to believe that humans were much dumber back then than they are now to think it wasn’t possible. Dehumanizing the past like your typical high school history class does is an easy way to discredit our ancestors’ intelligence.
So first came my doubt. Wow. If the major themes of Jesus in Christianity are based on a reincarnated story from Egypt, then there are two possibilities: Jesus is a reincarnation of Horus, or Jesus is not the son of God. The wonderful thing about scholars by the time they were deciding what was be part of Christianity’s belief system is they learned how to make stories a bit more believable for people in their day than a goddess who retrieved her dead husband’s body parts except his penis in order to impregnate herself with their son. If you think about Mary getting impregnated out of nowhere and an angel appearing to her and Joseph about the whole affair (pun intended), it kind of doesn’t sound much less ridiculous than what Horus’ goddess mother did. The point is, how are we justified to sit here and discredit an old Egyptian religious story like its hogwash, but believe in our own fairytale like its somehow more credible? Will humans look at us 2000 years from now and dehumanize us in their High School history classes and discredit our intelligence? Oh but look here, some old arrowheads that are worn so much from erosion they couldn’t have possibly killed anything with that – they must have been hunters.
But just because early Christian scholars concocted a nice story for their narrative in order to persuade people to join their religion, doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t exist or that he didn’t have important things to say that could revolutionize humanity. This is where I start to view the Bible differently than most. I don’t look for key events that validate my religion. I look for an attitude for living.
Let me talk about the popular narrative for a moment and then I will end with some of favorite Jesus’ quotes that I think if we lived out to the best of our abilities, none of the rest of the mainstream Christian doctrine matters.
Most forms of Christianity argue that because of original sin, there was no way we could make it to God’s good graces (for most people that means going to heaven when they die) on our good “works” alone. Meaning, no matter how good of a person you are, you still have “sin” in your life. You still intentionally or unintentionally hurt yourself or other people in the course of your life. (that last sentence is how *I* like to define sin or “missing the mark”). Because of the sin in our life, we needed Jesus the Son of God to come down from heaven through a virgin birth and die on a cross to pay the penalty of sin for us so that we could go to heaven when we die. But only IF we BELIEVE Jesus died for our sins. Consciously or subconsciously, this belief system gives Christians a permanent “Get out Jail Free” card. This means they can be alcoholics, beat their wives at home, emotionally abuse their children, talk behind cowokers’ backs and just in general be a selfish shitty person. “It’s ok because Jesus died for my sins. It doesn’t matter how many I commit or how good I am. As long as I believe he died for my sins, I’m ok. Yeah, He probably wants me to go to church on Sunday, read my Bible and pray. But I’m good. I’m covered. And I can judge others and point out the specks in their eyes. Everyone needs Jesus!” Yes, this is a simplistic fundamentalist explanation without going into all the intricate doctrinal details and beliefs about what constitutes a sin. But it works. I see it in peoples’ behaviors every day. The way they drive, the way they behave at work. The way some people are nice to you at work when they want something from you, but otherwise could care less about your existence as long as you don’t bother them too much. There ARE good people who take their attitude and the way they treat others seriously. But on the whole, I don’t see that as the norm.
I prefer to look at things Jesus SAID. This world will not automatically become a better place if we all believe someone played out a human form of animal sacrifice from the Old Testament for all our bad deeds (never mind WHY people do bad things to begin with). But if you look at key things Jesus SAID, its some key concepts that if lived out can change the world. And the best part is, you don’t have to believe in original sin, his human sacrifice, his virgin birth, or his rising from the dead to do these things or to have the right attitude towards your fellow humans, nature and our earth.
Here are some of my favorites (from the NASB):
Matthew 7:12: In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 19:23-24: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 22:34-40: But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 25:34-40: Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer them and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”
Luke 7:44-47: Turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
I think Jesus makes his message pretty clear. It’s all about attitude, folks. It’s all about how well you LOVE.