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Jesus and the Temple

Reader comment on item: Israel and the Temple Mount's Five Muslim Rivals
in response to reader comment: Humanity Does Not Dictate Who the LORD IS

Submitted by AV (United States), Feb 21, 2021 at 22:31

Tovey, regarding the Temple of the God of Israel, you bring up a number of concerns from a Christian perspective. I am hesitant to enter a digression, but how Christian spiritual traditions can understand the Temple merits discussion.

I come from a Jewish perspective. I consider Christianity to be a legitimate religion for Nonjews. Christianity does love the Infinite thus can benefit from doing pilgrimages to the Temple of the God of Israel, in Jerusalem, to celebrate the Infinite.

Despite Jesus being the center of Christianity, I view the historical Jesus to be strictly Jewish himself. Jesus was doing Judaism. Moreover, the Jewish students of Jesus never became Nonjewish students of Paul. Christianity today is the Nonjewish students of Paul. By contrast, Jesus and his students were Jewish and never stopped doing Jewish.

Historically, Jesus himself is "Pharisaic" and his debates with various Pharisees are normal Jewish debates about halakha, about how to best do the commandments that are in the Tora.

Jesus himself made pilgrimages to the Temple of the God of Israel in Jerusalem, as the Judaism of the Tora requires him to do. Jesus is a Tora teacher who instructs his Jewish Tora students to only worship the Father, who is the imageless Infinite. Essentially, the historical Jesus believes in an early form of Rabbinic Judaism relating to Hilel. The Gospels note that Jesus happens to be a Tora-observant Jew, endeavoring to satisfy well every mitsva in the Tora. Those few places where Jesus appears to violate the Tora, relate to different halakhic local customs, especially the customs in Galilee where Jesus grew up, versus the customs in Judea where he was born. For example, a debate about whether one can pick up a mat on Shabat ultimately depends on local customs about an Eruv, whether one is technically indoors or not. The Will of our Father is for Jews to do all of the commandments that are in the Tora. Jesus does this Will of the Father. Jesus does all of the mitsvot in the Tora to the best of his ability.

Within Judaism, there is an ongoing debate about which is more important when doing a commandment in the Tora, the inner intention (Kavana) or the outer action. Each generation seems to produce proponents for both arguments. It seems to me, Jesus is one of many Jews who argues on behalf of the inner intention being more important. Jesus distinguishes between the inner commandments of the heart that are in the Tora versus the outer commandments of the physical actions. Inner commandments include love, compassion, mercy: "And you will love the LORD your Divinity with all of your heart"; "And you will love with regard to your friend, as you"; "You will not covet"; Etcetera. His halakhic opinion is, if doing an outer commandment requires one to violate an inner commandment by doing it in a way that lacks love, compassion, or mercy, then one must refrain from doing this outer command until it becomes possible to do it in a way that is loving, compassionate, and merciful. In other words, fulfillment of an outer commandment becomes invalid if it lacks the inner intention. Jesus never cancels any commandment in the Tora. Jews must still do all of the commandments that are in the Tora to the best of ones ability. But his argument that the command to love and to do compassionate actions can temporarily override and suspend outer commandments, seems controversial enough.

Nevertheless, Jesus is doing normal Jewish "halakha". Halakha invites different points of view, just like any other legal system invites different legal opinions. Halakha seeks how best to do the commandments that are in the Tora. Whether other Jews agree with the opinion of Jesus or not, historians do well to understand Jesus is a normal Jew who is participating in normal Judaism. During the days of Jesus, there were a number of streams of Judaism. But Jesus himself happens to adhere to the stream of Rabbinic Judaism that prevails today.

I mention beliefs that Jesus himself believed. It is possible for Nonjewish Christians to see how Jesus believes Judaism is holy, and believes God wants Jews to do Judaism. Jesus himself is a Jew doing Judaism. At the same time, Christians are Nonjews and dont need to do Judaism. Even when Christians revere Jesus and recognize that he is doing all of the commandments of the Tora, Christians themselves dont need to do them.

Christians are students of Paul. Paul never Jesus, but conferred with Jesuss Jewish students. The halakhic opinion of Jesus distinguishes between outer commands and inner commands, and prioritizes the inner commands. Essentially, Paul applies this argument further to assert that Nonjews can do the inner commands of the Tora (love, compassion, mercy, etcetera), even while lacking the obligation to do the outer commands of the Tora, such as eating kosher. The students of Paul, namely Christians today, dont need to do the outer commandments that are in the Tora, but can still observe the inner commandments by loving God, loving humans, and being compassionate, merciful, tolerant, avoiding envy, and so on.

To be a Christian is to take on the yoke of the ethical life of the inner mitsvot the Tora.

Christians dont need to obey the outer commandments in the Tora about eating kosher food. They dont need to keep kosher, but individual Christians can voluntarily choose to keep kosher if they want to. There is no reason not to, and they can derive benefit if they do. Probably the same goes for pilgrimages to the Temple. Christians dont need to obey the outer commands in the Tora that Jews must do to build a Temple and to go on pilgrimages to the Temple during the high holidays. But individual Christians can still choose to go voluntarily on a pilgrimage if they want do, and derive benefit from doing so. Indeed, these Christians who feel it in their heart to do so can celebrate how Jesus himself is a Jew who does do pilgrimages to the Temple.

Whether Christians choose to go to the Temple or not, they can still believe it is good and holy and appropriate for Jews to obey God by going to the Temple.

Some minutia. Tovey, you quote the Gospels, "salvation is from the Jews". Note, it doesnt say, salvation is from one Jew, Jesus. Salvation comes from all Jews, doing the Judaism of all of the Tora. I honestly believe that if Jews today went extinct, then the entire human species would go extinct. I view Jews as a necessary ingredient for human survival − both in this world and in the world to come.

You mention "the LORD will return to Zion". This LORD mainly refers to the Holy Spirit, who will once again inhabit the Temple on the mountain of Zion, and this "return" is mainly synonymous with Israel rebuilding the Temple. There is some complexity involving how King David and King Shlomo built the Temple, but it is best to avoid oversimplification. The main idea is, the indwelling of God will return to the Temple on Zion, but there are also other issues relating to the government of the nation of Israel.

Finally, you cite Paul who mentions, the Name above all names. This highest Name is Y.H.V.H., often represented by the pronounceable phrase "the LORD". Paul believes that Jesus is someone "who comes in the Name of Y.H.V.H", as King David too comes in the Name of Y.H.V.H. In any case, the highest Name is Y.H.V.H., being the Name for the imageless Infinite. By contrast, the name "Jesus" (Yhoshua or Yeshua) is one of many lower human names.

Perhaps the highest Name of all is the one that God tells Moshe, "I will be the one that I will be", being a Name that continually and infinitely transcends the present.

When Christians make pilgrimages to the Temple, it is to pray to the Infinite. The same Infinite who Jesus himself commands his students to pray to, alone.


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