Friday, March 29, 2013

3 Myths You Believe About Christ and His Passion

Nobody knows everything about Jesus and the Passion. I would venture to guess (humbly albeit confidently) that nobody living can or would say such a thing. That said, it doesn’t hurt to try to learn everything one can about Christ. With this in mind, here are a few of the commonly-believed myths about Christ and the events surrounding His death that deserved be debunked:

 1) “Jesus hated Pharisees.”

This is an easy myth to buy into because, at countless points throughout the gospels, Jesus reprimands the Pharisees. However:

It’s true. See, the Pharisees were actually a sect of Judaism that – in contrast with the highly traditional Sadducees – not only believed strongly in the Holy Spirit and Heaven but also acknowledged the teachings of other prophets besides Moses. Far from hating the Pharisees, Jesus was actually raised in the Pharisaical tradition, a fact which is obvious when one realizes that Jesus often preached on the Holy Spirit and Heaven and seemed to be constantly fulfilling the prophesies of prophets other than Moses.

Jesus was tough on the Pharisees for the same reason a skilled coach would be hard on a lazy player. In other words, Jesus was hard on the Pharisees because He knew what they could and should have been and yet He saw them failing miserably.

2) “There was a rooster at the passion.”

Any decent Christian knows the story of St. Peter denying Christ before the cock crowed. It’s a particularly tragic event in the story of Christ’s Passion, and yet it also lays the foundation for a beautiful lesson about Christ’s forgiveness.

But there’s a problem: there were no chickens in Jerusalem during the life of Christ.
 Because of chickens’ tendency to defecate where you don’t want them to, the Talmud strictly prohibited them entering the city lest they find their way into the temple.

Plus, chickens are really scary.

So why does the Bible say that “the cock crowed”?

Well, according to Because They Never Asked author and Messianic Jew Lonnie Lane, the original Greek text used the word “alektor” to describe this “rooster”. However, what the original English translators of the Bible failed to realize is that “alektor” can describe not only a rooster, but also a specially designated priest in the Jewish temple. In the days of Jesus, it was this priest’s job to arise at dawn, open up the temple, and call the people to prayer. Because he cried out at dawn, he was commonly referred to as “alektor”, or rooster, but this turn-of-phrase was lost on the English speakers who first translated the holy text.

What’s even more fascinating about this fact is that it adds another layer of meaning to the story of Peter’s denial. When the priest would wake and call the people to prayer, he would shout three things:

"All the cohanim (priests) prepare to sacrifice! All the Leviim (Levites) to their stations! All the Israelites come to worship!”

Now imagine you’re Peter for a moment. You’ve just denied Christ when you hear the temple crier call out his message to sacrifice, serve, and worship God, the exact three things you’ve just failed in doing by denying the Lord. How much more chilling is this story – and how much more beautiful is Christ’s eventual forgiveness of Peter – when we know this historical detail?

3) "Jesus was a white guy.”

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Of course Jesus wasn’t white! Jesus was Jewish, everyone knows that!” However, this has some connotations that you may not be aware of.

Firstly, Jesus was definitely much tanner than most depictions would have us believe.
Professor Vincent Wimbush, of California's Claremont Graduate University, who is an expert on ethnic interpretations of the Bible, says the matter of the historical color of Jesus seems to him a "flat, dead-end issue".

"He's of Mediterranean stock, and it's quite clear what that means. We see people like that in the world today, and that should end the matter."

Another interesting factoid is Jesus’ facial hair. Despite the fact that Jesus is often depicted as having a neat, trimmed beard, we have to remember that Jesus was devoutly Jewish. This means that, in addition to having a long shaggy beard, Jesus also would’ve had payis. 

Payis, or “peya” as they’re also called, are the sidelocks (long sideburns) worn by conservative Jewish men. They’re mentioned in Leviticus 19:27 where it is decreed, “You shall not round off the peya of your head”.  Therefore, many modern Jewish men (and all Jewish men during the time of Christ) would have sported the long curly sideburns as a symbol of their devotion to God.

Because of this, Jesus would've looked less like this...

"I am Thor,  god of... wait"
...and a lot more like this:
"The Kingdom of God is like...
a fiddler on the roof!"

In closing, I have to reaffirm that it’s impossible to know everything about our Savior. Far better men than I have written far more on some of the lesser-known details surrounding His time with us on earth. However, it’s always nice to get some new insights into old assumptions, particularly when those insights allow us to see new detail in the story of our salvation.

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