There is no “pure’ religion. Both the Eden and Flood myths stemmed from the Gilgamesh fable in the earliest civilization of Mesopotamia. The Ten Commandments were also first recorded in Mesopotamia by King Hamurrabi. The Golden Rule was recorded almost simultaneously by Lao Tzu, Confucius, the Buddha,
and Leviticus (19:18), about 500 years before the rabbis Hillil and Yesua (Jesus)
declared it themselves. Also the Persians recorded the myth of End Times about
500 years before the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings.
Christianity adopted all these teachings, with the addition
of being strongly influenced by the Near Eastern mystery cults and resurrection myths as well.
All of the above again was adopted by Islam. Moreover, if what we call”
God” by definition is universal, there is room for all such perspectives and beyond even that. For if we tried to hone the Godhead down to something much more constricted, we would end up with merely
some limited, local god, nothing more.
However, no one religion can be conceivable to another
if it retains the audacity to claim itself the only true religion. Therein
lies the tragic fallacy of fundamentalism in all religions throughout history. So
I must therefore admit my own Christian orientation results from but an accident of birth, not from being especially blessed
or chosen. I have learned much from the study of other faiths, and thereby enriched
The Brahman and Taoist religions let me realize the
ineffable, unimageable Mystery of what we call the Godhead, and inspired me to turn also to the mystics of my own faith. The Hindu religions showed me there were other spiritual paths beyond blind faith
alone. Buddhism helped me realize the impermanence of things, and the futility
of frivolous desires and false clinging. Judaism revealed the delightful freedom
to interpret Biblical myths according to my own ever-growing knowledge and experience….
when revealing (oft hidden) parallels and similarities between Judaism and Christianity, I have no motive to convert anyone
to any particular faith. My goal is instead to develop a richer understanding
between the two faiths. For not only is anti-Semitic bigotry totally unacceptable, neither should Jews feel spiritually alienated
in a Christian dominated Western culture.
So after pointing out some understandable areas of agreement,
we will delve into the Christian concepts that at first will seem inconceivable to Jews, e.g. the “Virgin Birth”,
“Mother of God”, and the Trinity wherein the Christ becomes “God the Son”. These latter concepts especially seem to fly in the face of believing in just one monotheistic God.
SOME POINTS OF AGREEMENT:
My inspiration for this writing is Rabbi Neil Gillman’s
book The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians. A main thrust of the book included Franz Rosenswig’s influential interpretation of the Sh’ma
liturgy and it’s three movements signifying: Creation (Yotzer), Revelation (Torah), and Redemption (Geulah). [See Rosenswig’s Star of Redemption] My
approach here is to trace these three Divine acts back to what aspects of the Godhead could cause these acts. Let us first explore these divine aspects in microcosm, i.e. as they affect human beings on this earth.
Genesis 1 reveals God’s Spirit hovering over the deep in the act of creating all things, thereby revealing it
to be God’s creative power. This Spirit was said to directly affect
humans when it entered into the prophets resulting in their revelations. Hence
we can rightly say: God creates and reveals through the Spirit. And the revelations
become God’s Law in the teachings of the Torah. This leaves Redemption,
which is celebrated through Rosh Hashanah culminating in Yom Kippur. Here each
individual Jew can be redeemed and renewed. Some Jewish factions also believe
Israel and the world will be also redeemed by the Messiah in the End Days.
So far, how does all this compare with Christian beliefs? Christians believe in the same Spirit as God’s creative power, and as the power
of rebirth and renewal in individuals as well. Here Christ as “son of God”
is no different from all who are “sons” or children of God when they are thusly reborn. Christians also see Scripture as revealed knowledge of God. Many
Christian factions also believe the Messiah will come to redeem the world in End Times.
The difference here is Christians already have their Messiah
picked out, i.e. the Christ (Greek for Messiah). Here is why The Christ is also
sometimes called “Son of Man”, as the Messiah is depicted in the Book of Daniel.
The concepts herein still remains Hebraic: The Christ’s crucifixion
and degradation can be made conceivable through the Hebrew passages of the suffering servant and human scapegoat depicted
in Isaiah 53. The triumphant return of a militant Messiah can be found
in the Christian Testament’s Book of Revelation.
In Christianity, individual redemption holds a special place. The Christ’s suffering and resurrection (whether physical or spiritual)
becomes a powerful archetype catalyst to trigger his followers’ redemption, renewal, and rebirth in this life and hopefully
beyond. Mystics like Meister Eckhart have even viewed the “virgin birth”
as the conversion-birth of their own virgin (uninitiated) souls.
To delve more deeply into individual renewal and rebirth in
Judaism we must reexamine the teachings in the Hebrew Merkabah. Here the
divine person above the throne in the Book of Ezekiel, along with the Son of Man in the Books of Enoch and Daniel, signify
the prophet’s higher, sanctified self as a Son of God. Another personal
vision and path to renewal and rebirth would be God’s Presence in Shekhinah God’s feminine image and gateway to
the Divine. Here is a Hebraic mystical aspect of a “virgin” or conversion
birth for Jews to embrace if desired.
Hence, there should be no great problem, at least for liberal
and ecumenical Jews, in conceiving of God as creative Spirit and Lawgiver even in Christian terms. Nor should there be a real problem in conceiving of a chosen Messiah, or even of an inspiring prophet or
personal image acting as catalyst toward individual renewal and rebirth is this life.
This understood, how could Judaism possibly reconcile symbols
like the “Mother of God”, and “God the Son” as an actual
aspect of God in a Trinity? Such symbols can be conceivable from the deeper and
more expanded perspective of the Kabbalah.
“MOTHER GOD” AND “TRINITY”
IN COSMIC PERSPECTIVE:
The Kabbalah’s symbolic Tree of Life portrays Einsof,
the Mystery of Eternity as containing all the lawful and creative potentials of the cosmos (Hokmah), which finally emanated
into the Void (Keter), which in turn became the virtual womb of the cosmos or “Mother of God” (Binah). Then the Void shattered activating the initial triad of chaotic and creative cosmic energy (Hesid) impregnated
by cosmic law (Gevurah) manifesting in constant new creation (Tiferot).
The esteemed Palestinian rabbi, Abraham Isaac Kook, taught that
all of existence is the body of God (echoing Alexander Pope’s “One stupendous whole/ with cosmos as body/ and
God the soul”). Seeing the cosmos as God’s body can render the birthing
mystery lurking in the original Void as the cosmic womb or metaphorical “Mother of God” indeed.
We then can view
the creative cosmic energy of Hesid as God’s creative Spirit (a Hebraic female power) impregnated by God’s Law,
Gevurah, (a Father-God principle) producing the cosmic offspring, Tiferot – which in Kabbalah can be referred to as
“Cosmic Son”. (See G. Sholem’s The Mystical Shape of the
Godhead, 1997, and L. Leet’s Secret Doctrine of Kabbalah 1999.)
we now have the lawful and creative power of the cosmic Godhead, which constantly resurrects new creation from chaos
throughout the heavens. This can be seen in Christian terms, the Cosmic
Lawgiver (Father-God) and Cosmic Power (Spirit) gives birth to Cosmos as Offspring (Son) – Matthew Fox’s
“wounded body of the universe”.
This Trinity of God’s powers can work microcosmically
for Christians through the Spirit, Commandments, and personified Son-symbol. The
historical Jesus remains then a catalytic, personified, archetypal symbol of rebirth and resurrection both here and in the
Jews can also tap into the cosmic power of rebirth through equally
forceful symbols of their own. For it all exists in the Torah and Kabbalah. God's Spirit and Law constantly
resurrects new creation throughout the heavens and renewes new life in devout worshipers, each a Child of God. For just as all of nature is resurrection -- as without, so within each reverent soul.
Like myself, you need not convert to anything beyond what you
already have. But expanded perspectives can enrich your own. May your faith receive the hybrid vigor that mine has attained. May
you never stop growing in God….