The Birth of American Religion
It can be said that Christian history begins with an unplanned pregnancy during the reign of Herod the Great (73/74 BCE - 4 BCE), the Roman client king of Judea. At that time an unmarried Jewish girl in her early to mid teens was "found to be with child." On or around Thursday, October 6, 7 BCE she gave birth to a son. I discuss the calculation of this date of this birth elsewhere. According to the Christian New Testament the child was born in a Jewish sukkah or temporary hut such as we use during the holiday of Sukkot. The Greek word used to convey this is phatne. (note 1) .This references the temporary shelters used by shepherds and lived in by Jews during the biblical holiday of Sukkot (as a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt).
The baby was named Y'shua ben Yosef, which is to say "Yeshua (i.e. Joshua) son of Joseph" (his mother was named Mary). His father, whether biological or adoptive is hotly contested. He was apparently a religious Jew and a carpenter by trade. For reasons known only to the Catholic Church his Hebrew name ישוע (Y'shua) was changed to ישו (Isa). In Arabic his name is called Isa. In the 1600's Y'shua's Greek name Ἰησοῦς (Iesous) was changed to "Jesus" for the English speaking world. His original Hebrew name (Y'shua) implies that the God of his people is the only source of redemption. .
Seemingly his parents realized that the mercy of the child's ancestral God would be his only hope of survival, let alone of a meaningful life. Y'shua was a mamser, a child of uncertain birth and lineage. Joseph and Mary were married after she had become pregnant according to the New Testament:Matthew 1:18 ... before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
1:19 But Joseph, her husband to be, being just, and not willing to make her a public example, he purposed to put her away secretly.
As a mamser Y'shua was at a marked disadvantage in First Century Judea. According to Matthew 1:21 an angel intervened and gave them their child's name to signify that through him the Jewish people would be "protected" (Greek: sozo) from their offenses (Greek: hamartia). For Christians this indicates his unique role as global redeemer. They regard him as the universal savior (or at least of all those who personally accept him as such). History has demonstrated that this did not work out as they hoped. In his name much good has been accomplished, but some of the most brutal antisemitic attacks in history have also been conducted.
In the First Century CE, under normal circumstances, the child's questionable parentage would have resulted in the shunning of his mother (if not in her stoning). This is what Joseph sought to prevent by marrying her. Conceived from a socially and scripturally forbidden union, Y'shua would have been branded a "bastard" and a mamser (this word has technical significances under Jewish Law that may or may not have technically applied to Y'shua). In any case he would have had little if any chance at living a meaningful life (Isaiah 57:3) and certainly no future as a religious leader. In order to preserve the honor of the mother and future of the child Yosef (Joseph) married Miryam (Mary) before the child's birth. Again, whether he or someone else was the father is unknown. Christians believe the baby was miraculously conceived by "the Holy Ghost."According to most Christians, Y'shua was none other than the Christ (the "Anointed"), the 'Son of the Living God', the Messiah of the Jews, God incarnate, and the origin of us all (Colossians 1:15).
According to the Jews these claims are blasphemous, contrary to Torah and disregard the clear teachings of the prophets. Y'shua certainly did not meet the biblical messianic requirements (which is a main why the Church invented the Second Coming dogma). To we Jews the claim of his divinity is a clear violation of First Century and present Jewish belief and interpretation. The Holy has no body and can not be seen. Unlike the Pagan gods, He does not incarnate.
Jews reject these claims, in part, because Y'shua did not fulfill the messianic requirements. Verses such as Colossians 1:15 can be understood in different ways depending on the reader's religious paradigm. Jews often point out that biblically the Messiah's mission is to restore and rule Israel from the Throne of King David, and yet Y'shua consistently refused all involvement in politics. He even said that "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). The Messiah's Kingdom will be of this world. Prophetically the Messiah must bring all the Jews home to Israel and rule over them, and yet a mere 35 years after Y'shua's execution almost all the Jews were either slaughtered or forced into exile from Judea. Likewise, the Torah forbids human sacrifice and yet a human 'sacrifice' at the hands of Roman Pagans is the event they seek to establish their claims on. He was executed "outside of the city" and yet sacrifices must be performed at the Temple, in the City. How, our sages ask, could he possibly have been our Messiah when he met none of the requirements? Nonetheless, of him it is said:"He is the most well-known historical figure in of all human history. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, have not affected the life of humankind upon this earth as much as this "One Solitary Life" -- Dr. James Allan Francis - 1926.But is he the Messiah? What is commonly known about him is mainly the myth, not the man. Y'shua ben Yosef or Jesus remains the most misunderstood Jew in history, both by Christians and Jews alike.
What has this got to do with religious development in the US? The United States and its foundational religious paradigm was firmly established on the Church mythologies.
The American founding father's sought to establish a nation in which all people would be free to interpret and apply the Judeo-Christian religious principles as each saw fit, free from Papal or other hierarchical influences, including those of the national and state governments: "Congress shall make no laws concerning the establishment of religion nor the free exercise thereof." This was intended to protect the right of all citizens to their Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices. It was not intended to protect the government from those beliefs. The US was established as a Judeo-Christian Republic.
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- Note 1: That she was in her teens is indicated, in the Greek, by the word parthwnoos which means maiden (GD 3933). Return
John of AllFaith
* By John of AllFaith, © 1989, John F Kennedy University, updated October 22, 2023
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