It is time for honest, frank discussion about the real purpose of religions, the extent to which their sacred texts are fallible, and the extent to which theocratic “fundamentalist” sects have misrepresented and distorted those texts to ignore their core message in its full context.
There is now ample evidence that Christianity (as we know it) is not what Jesus of Nazareth intended. In fact, he made it clear that he had to go away but at the end of the age prophecies would be fulfilled.
As the article on The "Second Coming" Story reveals, the idea that Jesus himself will come again is a myth, and Prophecies Re: He Who Fulfills Them reveals that the modern son of man, who Jesus spoke of, fits the description of the one who, according to Isaiah, "brings Jacob again" because, like the original Jacob, he struggles with God. For he is only human, to a fault, and it is only as an old man that he finally delivers the message of judgment and intercession satisfactorily.
After all, if Jesus could "come again" magically from out of the sky to judge and save the world, he would have done it. But he can't and won't, and that's not what he or any of the preceding prophets prophesied anyway. It is one of the myths created by those responsible for the official Christian church canon, established between 50 CE and 180 CE and made "official" in the fourth century.
Anyway, one of the things that Jesus said would happen at the end of the age he ushered in is that a modern son of man would separate the good "sheep" from the hypocritical "goats."
The good "sheep" are good servants of God who understand the essential, core message of Jesus of Nazareth, that we should love one another, treat all others as we would want to be treated if we were them, and have faith that the humble, gentle, kind, generous, peaceful and meek majority shall inherit the earth.
However, Christianity is not yet what Jesus intended it to be because erroneous doctrines of men have been and are preached by the hypocritical "goats" -- false shepherds, false prophets and other hypocrites who claim to do "many wonderful works in the name of the Lord" when they actually "work iniquity."
Christianity is the largest religion in the world for two reasons. One is because the true Christian message is good and it survived in spite of competing against erroneous doctrines. And the other reason is because theocratic hypocrites who preach erroneous doctrines can be very cunning and clever, and many even believe they serve God. That has been the case since not long after Jesus died, and has especially been the case since the fourth century.
Many people have realized that, particularly since "The Enlightenment" era in the 1600s and 1700s. For example, one of the greatest Founders of America, Thomas Jefferson, realized the faults and errors in the official church canon (bible), as did Washington, Madison, Franklin, Adams and others -- being very aware of the bloody history of theocratic European Christian military industrial empires.
Of course, Founders like Jefferson loved the core, universal teaching of Jesus. In fact, Jefferson wrote: "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."
However, Jefferson also wrote: "Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Jesus by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."
Jefferson's observations were quite astute, as were the observations and thoughts of many other "Enlightenment" era thinkers. And that is why it is time for another, greater Enlightenment era, with a more thorough and updated education about Christianity and Jesus of Nazareth.
As the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote, Jesus of Nazareth was followed by "many Jews and Greeks." In fact, multitudes of people at the time recognized him as a spiritually anointed son of man and a Mashiach in the Jewish tradition.
A Mashiach is called a Christus in Greek, which later became Christ and Messiah in English. All of those terms are titles that actually mean an “anointed one.” Therefore the word "Christ" was not Jesus' last name. It was a title. And unbeknownst to many Christians, many Jewish leaders and prophets before Jesus were given the same title of Mashiach and son of man. Jesus was one of many.
That's why before Jesus was killed many Jews called him "Mashiach Yeshua ben Yosef," which in English means Messiah Jesus, son of Joseph. However, Jesus of Nazareth was more than a Mashiach or Messiah, and he was more than a reformer who broke Jewish messianic tradition. He was also the world Avatar for the age he ushered in, the age which is coming to an end. But, Jesus was not the Messiah who fulfilled Jewish prophecies, and he knew it even though apparently most of the authors of the official church canon (bible) did not know that.
Today few Christians understand that, but thanks to the great work of modern archaeologists, progressive religious scholars, historians and other researchers, and the gift of the revelation that has come at the end of the age (the apokalupsis eschaton), it has become much easier to understand, how, when and why Christianity as we know it is not really what Jesus of Nazareth had in mind.
That is why Jesus said the age he ushered in would be one of conflict and division, and at the end of the age there would be a terrible Tribulation with wars, rumors of war, natural disasters, man-made disasters and many other terrible things. And he said the ultimate prophecies would not be fulfilled until the end of the age. But many Christians, and especially those called "fundamentalists," do not understand that.
Thank God, good Christians, like other truly faithful people, understand enough to believe that the humble and meek shall inherit the earth by abiding by the Universal Divine Imperative, also called the Golden Rule. But, unfortunately, they are drowned out by proud and militant hypocrites who aggressively follow the ways and doctrines of patriarchs and Theocrats.
Hypocrites have gotten away with it, and still get away with it, because the Christian canon contains false doctrines and myths. And Jesus knew it would. He predicted it, and he knew that many hypocrites would claim to serve God when they actually serve Mammon, not God.
Thomas Jefferson, understood that, which is why he wrote: "The whole history of [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute inquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts ..." --- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814."
Jefferson was correct, because Jesus was a true servant and a great Avatar and representative of God, and much of what he taught was included in the Christian Bible. However, while Jefferson loved Jesus' actual universal teachings, he, like other "Enlightenment" thinkers, recognized that the official canonized texts of the church also contain some absurdity, untruth and contradictions. (And in another instance he even said it contained "corruptions.")
Being a highly educated man Jefferson said such things understanding the problems with the official Christian church canon of Pauline Christianity. Jefferson, like many other highly educated people during the 1700s, understood why the official Christian church canon and its misleading doctrines had caused so much conflict and division and even wars, death and destruction since not long after Jesus died, and particularly since the fourth century -- with the oppressive Dark Ages, the misguided and bloody Crusades, the cruel Inquisitions, and many other abuses of power and wealth that were perpetrated in the name of "saving souls" and "spreading the Word of God."
Educated people understood that the imperial church was merely divided by the insufficient Protestant Reformation, which was one of the results of the early Enlightenment, and the Theocratic Anglican Church of England had become nearly as bad as what had preceded it. That, in fact, is one of the reasons the American Revolution was fought.
Most of America's Founders, being Deists and Freemasons, understood what Americans today do not know. They insisted on religious freedom and freedom from Theocracy, understanding the bloody history of theocratic Christian emperors, kings and queens. They tried to establish America as a place where all religions were respected as equal by government.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way because Theocrats who believe in Christian Dominionism have persisted in America. They always have, which is why Thomas Jefferson had to fight them off when he ran for president. And they persist today, which is why they must be confronted by the truth about Christianity, and Jesus of Nazareth.
As Jesus said, when our eye is single our mind and body will be full of Light. Therefore, we should understand what that means. And, like Jefferson did in his "Jefferson Bible," we must now separate the wheat from the chaff.
Fortunately, we have good examples and precedents to follow. For since truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, many Christians since Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth have understood the real message of Jesus around the Golden Rule. Like Hillel the Elder before him, Jesus said it summarized the Torah. And true Christians know that the Christian Bible still contains much truth in spite of containing some significant falsehoods and fabrications.
For example, it is no doubt true that Jesus said that he came "not to bring peace, but division” (Luke 12:51), knowing that he ushered in an age of conflict and division. That is why he said: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Unbeknownst to the authors of the Christian New Testament, the prophecies in the book of Isaiah were not about Jesus, but about the modern son of man who Jesus also prophesied about. But the followers of Jesus did not understand the prophecies of Jesus either, and they did not understand that the modern messianic servant of God would actually counsel all nations and help them understand the real and true God, the God that is not just the God of Israel and Judah, but the true God of the universe and all nations of the world -- which is called such names as Brahman, Yahweh, Jehovah, The Absolute Tao, The Supreme Consciousness, Wakan Tanka, etc.
As the article about The End of the Age explains, the prophecies of Isaiah and Jesus are about the same things, and about the same servant of God who issues judgment, guides humanity to the truth, shows you things to come, and glorifies God and all God's servants. That happens now at the end of the age, which is why we have been witnessing all the signs Jesus said would herald the coming of the son of man, the prophesied judgment he delivers, and the big change that will bring a much brighter future.
Jesus did not intend to start a new religion. His mission was to reform Judaism and make it more inclusive. However, a couple of decades after Jesus died, Saul of Tarsus, also called Paul, began to contend with James for the chief leadership role, despite the fact that Jesus had said that James should be the head of the church.
That conflict caused a sharp division among first century followers of Jesus, because by about 50 AD (CE) Paul's writings began to be accepted as the first "gospel truth" by certain churches, and they influenced later writings, especially the canonical gospels attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and even John, which came in that order following Paul's first seven epistles.
Jesus knew the Tribulation from which we now suffer was predictable. He predicted it, and he knew that even though most of humanity would improve, advance and evolve in our understanding of eternal and universal truths, some people would be corrupted by greed, self-interest, self-importance and self-righteousness, and some would be so corrupted by egotism that they would feel entitled to rule, and they would fight and even kill for worldly wealth, power, and domain.
In America the right-wing partisan politicians who boast of being Christians not only betray Jesus, they violate the intent of the Founding Fathers. By pushing a theocratic political agenda, the hypocrites are much like those most of the Founding Fathers fought against (as their own words reveal).
Paul’s theology was based not only on the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was "The" prophesied Messiah of Judaism. It was also based on Paul’s belief that Christianity superseded Judaism, and that was to counter and dismiss Rabbinical and Talmudic Jews who understandably refuted the stories about Jesus that were being spread.
Paul's theology of Christian Apologetics, which actually established Christianity as we know it in most of the world, was problematic from its inception, not only because it was controversial to many Jews (and still is), but also because it was controversial to many of the original followers of Jesus. In fact, the feud between Paul and James and his followers is well known among religious scholars. You can read more specifics about it in the article on The Missionary Paul, and His Theology of Christian Apologetics. It explains more fully how and why Paul created erroneous doctrines and thereby created a rift and schism within the original Christians.
However, here we can discuss some of the reasons why Paul's theology was inaccurate and has inevitably been detrimental to religious tolerance in the world.
(By the way, the next writer's work, the Gospel of Mark, was not produced until about 73 CE, while Matthew's followed in about 83 CE, followed by all others that came after that. And you can read Marcus Borg's widely accepted article on the chronological order of the texts that made it into the official church canon or Bible if you go to this link.)
Granted, Paul was correct about many things. He was quite correct, for instance, in pointing out the futility of looking for greener pastures rather than recognizing and appreciating what you have. And he was quite right in writing that "the weapons of the Lord are not carnal [or lethal], but they are mighty through God for pulling down strongholds [of military power]." For the only weapons of the Lord our God are words of truth written by truly and divinely inspired writers.
The main problem was that Paul did not know that the full realization of God and the "kingdom of heaven" comes "not with observation in the world, but from within," as Jesus said. The Spirit of truth and the Divine Light come from within and are perceived and felt from within, and when that happens one can perceive that everything around is vibrating with Light.
Paul didn't realize that because his source of inspiration came not from within, but from without. Paul reports having “heard the voice of Jesus” from without, and seeing bright light with his eyes. So even though that was so profound to him that it caused him to devote the rest of his life doing what he thought served the Lord, Paul’s spiritual “epiphany” was not what he thought it was. It is doubtful that Paul actually “knew the mysteries of heaven” as some of the actual apostles of Jesus did (as is mentioned in Matthew 13:10-11). And in fact, according to Acts 1:21-22, there were only 12 apostles and Paul was not an apostle, even though in his epistles Paul states that he was.
Paul also was the first to claim Jesus overcame death, and therefore freed the world from sin. That idea is based on the writings of Paul and the gospel writers who agreed with him. But it has obviously been proven to be erroneous. As Jesus foresaw and foretold, there is as much sin in the world now at the end of the age he ushered in as there ever was, and some of Paul’s claims are based on an incorrect interpretation of the statements and prophecies in Judaic scriptures in the Hebrew Bible.
In spite of that, a misunderstanding and problem was created after Jesus died when Paul’s theology of Christian Apologetics was established in 50 CE, which created or inspired some erroneous doctrines about Jesus. One, for instance, was that of the son of man who fulfills prophecies “will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" -- which is what most Christian versions of Isaiah 9:6 say in order to make Jesus seem as if he was both God the Father and God as Son. But, that is not what the original Hebrew scripture says.
As Hebrew scholars can tell you, it says the promised servant of God is essentially called "Wondrous Counselor and Arbitrator of Peace." The Hebrew version like the Christian version says government shall be upon his shoulder, and his counsel, judgment and righteousness will bring lasting peace. But the fact is that he, like Jesus, serves the omnipresent eternal God, the Great Spirit-Parent. And, as the Greek translation, the Septuagint, states, "his name is called the Messenger of great counsel," which is actually the most accurate way of putting it, for he is actually the main messenger for the Spirit of truth that Jesus said would come.
Understand the truth, for as the article on Isaiah Chapter 53 explains, the original text of Isaiah 9:6 does not contradict itself by saying the son of man is Counselor and Arbitrator of Peace as well as “God the Everlasting Father.” Rather, it uses words applicable to a son of man whose advice and counsel enables people to get the message of divine intent from the Spirit of truth, and from God.
That reality is clarified literally in many other instances in the book of Isaiah (including Isaiah 40:18, 40:25, 42:1-2, 42:8, and 46:5) which state that God is not a person, and that the person who fulfills prophecy is not God but a son of man and a "servant who God has chosen."
See, one of the reasons the Dominionists on the “Christian Right” have been and are pushing so hard is because, as most religious Christians are very aware, according to surveys about one third of the people in America now consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” and, while that number is increasing, so is the number of people who identify with the Interfaith movement that is growing rapidly -- (which would please the Founders of America who were Deists and Freemasons who wanted America to be an Interfaith nation with real freedom of religion).
However, it’s not just the extremists on the “religious” Right that are pushing the dogma and theology of Christian Apologetics. Other committed, highly enthusiast if not zealous Christians have been and are trying to sell the story of Jesus of Nazareth as is portrayed in the canonized Christian Bible.
For example, two Roman Catholics, Mel Gibson and Roma Downey have been very busy “spreading the Word.” Gibson produced the movie on The Passion of the Christ, and Downey produced the television miniseries, The Bible, and a movie titled Son of God.
Downey released the movie following up on her miniseries because it was popular with the almost one third of Americans who identify themselves as religious Christians. Many of them do not identify with the ultra partisan “religious right,” of course, but they do believe in the same traditional Pauline Christian dogma and regard it is “gospel truth.” But while they may not be blatantly political, they definitely have an agenda.
Downey has said, “We were tired of cursing the darkness. We're committed to stories that add light" because "We are people of faith.” Downey also said: "Everything begins with intention, and our intention with this was not to be divisive in any way, but to create something compelling that would draw people together." And “Our hope for our movie is that the people who are believers will come and have the opportunity to fall in love with Jesus again, and people who don't know Jesus at all could come and discover him for the first time."
In other words, she is proselytizing and evangelizing, which would not be bad if she knew and told the real story of Jesus of Nazareth. But, instead, she is against what Thomas Jefferson stood for and she is selling the one that was officially canonized in the Christian Bible in the fourth century by Christian leaders from different regions within the Roman Empire, after the Emperor Constantine had converted to Pauline Christianity.