Saturday, April 24, 2010

Did Jesus Endorse a Separation of Church and State?

And if so, How Far Did
He Want it to Go?


So I realize that this post is likely to ruffle a few feathers. After all, many people have very passionate feelings about the man from Nazareth known to billions of followers as Jesus the Christ. With this in mind, I will try to treat the topic with as much care as I can.

The very question posed in this post probably seems strange. After all, Jesus and his teachings, at least for the devout Christian, seem to transcend trivial political issues like church/state separation. Why would the Savior of mankind care about political ideology, governmental structure, etc. when he himself was called "King of kings and Lord of lords"? Shouldn't that suffice? Why would Jesus waste his time addressing the relatively mundane details surrounding issues like prayer in school, the oaths of the Pledge of Allegiance, the role (if any) that organized religion should play in the halls of government, etc., etc. etc.? Perhaps Gov.Mike Huckabee said it best when asked what Jesus would do as a modern politician:




And perhaps he is right. Surely Jesus would spend his time dealing with more important matters, right?

Not so fast.

While it is true that Jesus' primary goal was to bring people to him as the Savior of mankind, it would be both foolish and inaccurate to state that he cared nothing of the affairs of this world. And even though he made it clear that his "kingdom was not of this world," Jesus was, on occasion, quite vocal and passionate about the affairs this world.

Render to Caesar

During his ministry, Jesus was, from time to time, confronted by some of the more prominent members of Jewish society in an effort to confront him or catch him in a lie of sorts, all in an effort to discredit the man whom they esteemed as an enemy to their agenda. On one occasion, two different groups (the Pharisees and Herodians) confronted Jesus in an effort to "entangle him in his talk." Both the Parisees and Herodians hated Jesus (for different reasons) and believed that entangling him in his words, especially on hot-button political matters, might discredit him in the eyes of his followers. We read of what happened in Matthew 22:
15. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19. Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21. They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

22. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
There's a great deal to dissect in these eight verses. First off, the Pharisees and Herodians attempt to trap Jesus by appealing to his teachings regarding the supremacy of god. In Roman society, Caesar was esteemed to be a deity and those who rejected such teachings were often met with ridicule and scorn. Taxes were the predominant way in which homage to Caesar was acknowledged and as a result, any attempt to avoid them was met with severe consequences. So, in the minds of the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus was trapped. If he answered that man should not pay tribute to Caesar he would be seen as an enemy of the state. But if he agreed with paying tribute, he would come off looking like a hypocrite, since Jesus had emphasized the supremacy of the kingdom of god to that of man.

So what was Jesus to do? Blast their argument to oblivion of course! Matthew tells us that Jesus "perceived their wickedness" and got right to the heart of the matter. By using a mere penny (most certainly a denarius in Roman coinage) Jesus completely and totally surprised (or as Matthew states "marveled") his audience by uttering the now famous phrase, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." This simple phrase completely baffled the Pharisees to such a degree that they simply walked away with their tail between their legs. Jesus came away the clear victor.

Church/State Separation as a Christian Concept

So why where the Pharisees and Herodians so baffled by Jesus' seemingly simple remark? After all, this wouldn't sound that profound of a rebuttal to politicians or theologians today. Well, let's keep in mind that we are speaking of the ANCIENT world; a world that had long fused the political and theological worlds together by establishing kingships, Caesars and other "divine" rulers. The notion of an independent church, separate and sovereign from the secular world, was more than just a novel concept. It was revolutionary. As a result, we can logically and rationally proclaim that a separation between church and state is very much a CHRISTIAN concept. As my blog buddy Brian Tubbs points out by quoting Dinesh D'Souza's bestselling book, What's So Great About Christianity:
D'Souza argues that the "separation of religion and government" was a "Christian idea" and that Jesus was the "first one who thought of it." D'Souza points to Jesus' confrontation with the Herodians and Pharisees in Matthew 22 as the birth of the concept.

D'Souza explains that, for the ancient Greeks and Romans, the "gods a man should worship were the gods of the state." Accordingly, "patriotism demanded that a good Athenian make sacrifices to the Athenian gods and a good Roman pay homage to the gods of Rome."

Well, along come the Christians, who refuse to worship the Roman gods. This was unacceptable to Roman authorities (at least prior to Constantine)...

In Matthew 22, Jesus clearly teaches that Caesar is entitled to certain "things" (and he implies taxes as being among those "things"), but draws a line of distinction. Caesar is NOT entitled to everything, only
some things.

Likewise, Jesus implies a limit in the other direction. While God is sovereign and all-powerful, Jesus nevertheless explains (later to Pilate): "My kingdom is not of this world."

According to D'Souza, "God has chosen to exercise a limited domain over earthly rule, not because He is limited, but because He has turned over part of His kingdom to humans for earthly supervision."
Jesus of Nazareth was clearly in favor of a separation between church and state not because he wanted a secular society but because he wanted a moral one, and the best way to ensure that was to take religion out of the hands of the politicians. Jesus and his apostles had seen first hand what religious politicians (Pharisees, Herodians, etc.) had done to religion and Jesus clearly wanted no part of it. Rarely if ever did Jesus "trash talk" anyone but he certainly did with these types. As he stated in Matthew 12:34:
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
And throughout his ministry, Jesus would continue his insistence on church/state separation:
"My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)

"You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world." (John 8:23)

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve god an mammon." (Matthew 6:24.)

"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me." (Luke 22:25–26, 29)

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18: 9-14)
And Jesus didn't stop there. Even when tempted of the devil and the masses to be made a king (a physical, worldly king since he was presumably already "King of kings") over all the land, Jesus flat-out refused:
"And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Luke 4: 5-8)

"Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" (Luke 12:13–14)

"Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone." (John 6: 13-15)
But with all of his apparent disinterest (or insistence in a separation between church and state) in secular matters, Jesus was quick and fierce in his defense of religious sovereignty. In the only account of his resorting to violence, Jesus was more than willing to "throw down" with those who made a mockery of the temple:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" (John 2:13–16)
For Jesus, the pollution of worldly distractions had defiled the Lord's temple; an offense that was far worse than the introduction of religion into government. Simply put, the temple of the Lord was to be free of secular distractions, political rhetoric and worldly wealth. It was a house of sacrifice and prayer. Politicians and greedy capitalists be damned! =)

In light of such evidence, it is abundantly clear that a separation of church and state was, and still is, a CHRISTIAN concept. The very founder of the faith saw tremendous advantages to both church and state when both are put in check and denied the right to overpower the other. Under such a system, religion and government would mutually flourish not as opposing forces but as equal partners in creating a free and moral world. One could not exist without the other, and one could not exercise dominion over the other.

Our Founding Fathers (both the ultra-pious and "infidel" types) had a perfect understanding of this concept. They saw that the establishment of a joint church/state government had brought nothing but misery to the world, and they were hell bent on ensuring that it wouldn't happen in the "land of the free":
"I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta [Constitution] of our country." (George Washington, 1789, Papers, Presidential Series, 4:274).

"The Christian god is a three headed monster, cruel, vengeful, and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites

I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." (Thomas Jefferson, February 10, 1814).

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." (James Madison, "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785).
These quotes, and the thousands of others like them, do not illustrate an abhorrence of religion on the part of the founders, but instead illustrate the incredible depth of understanding they possessed with regards to Jesus' true teachings. In other words, the founders were able to cut through the B.S. and get at the core of the matter. A separation of church and state was THE FUNDAMENTAL COMPONENT to ensuring a free republic. Losing sight of this all-important concept was to lose sight of freedom itself, to lose sight of Jesus himself.

And, thank God, the founders didn't lose sight of either.

29 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." (Thomas Jefferson, February 10, 1814)."

Check the first sentence. I don't think it's right. Rather an "unconfirmed quotation." The second sentence is accurate.

Pinky said...

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Are you a preacher, Brad? Nice job as an expository sermon.
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When we try to compare the culture of the time of Jesus with the way thinking was at the time of our society's founding, we stumble over our selves.
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From what I've ever learned (so far--I may be wrong) the thinking during Jesus' time was stuck on the idea of a single entity being at the head of government, i.e., king, judge, dictator, etc.. Everything was hierarchical--top down and no bottom up.
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In my understanding (not popular, I know) of Christianity, Jesus worked to break that mold, claiming that there was such a thing as what we call bottom up. It was so strange that people thought he was claiming to be God incarnate. People, in those days, just couldn't get their mental arms around the idea. That made him a target for the sycophants and all those feeders in the hierarchy of society. He was like a whistle blower in common parlance.

He sprung open the door that let that sliver of light in that grew to be the Enlightenment and brought us the thinking we have today.
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Jesus message was plain in that there was a spiritual realm as well as the mortal realms of human society. And, it was based on the idea that these two realms were distinct and separate. But, his ministry was to both realms.
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Anonymous said...

Of course, Brad, this raises the next question. Do the Gospels have anything to do with secular matters, i.e. living this life? If, as some Protestants believe, faith and faith alone is required for redemption does Christianity have anything to do with life on earth including social affairs and politics? What did the foundering fathers think on this matter?

-Jason

Pinky said...

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Bingo!!
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Considering the founder of the Christian religion was executed by the state, it's not surprising to find that Christianity's character is different than both Greco-Roman paganism and Judaism and Islam.

If one starts at the beginning, a priori, instead of looking back on history a posteriori, one might end up in the same place, but with a fuller explanation, simply that the New testament is apolitical.

However, the Byzantine Empire was quite successful with a closer relationship between church and state; indeed, it was perhaps the longest-running government entity in man's history.

secular square said...

I am not sure we can read back “separation of church and state” into these comments of Jesus. The most commonly cited passage from Matt. 22 describes Jesus escaping the dilemma posed by his enemies. But I believe the dilemma was more political--loyalty to Israel or to the Roman occupiers--than religious. Moreover, Rome accorded the Jews religious autonomy both in Israel proper and throughout the empire. The problem of Christian participation in Roman cults and festivals noted by D'Souza really did not become an issue until the emergence of non-Jewish converts to Christianity in other provinces. Rome did not exclude Christians from participation. So the persecution began.

Jesus never questioned the union of church and state in Israel. He affirmed the authority of the Mosaic law in Matt. 5.17-18, ( I assume that includes the passage about death to religious apostates in Dt. 13.6-11 and tithes to support their national religion in Dt. 12.19), and he participated in the required religious festivals in John 2.13. John 2.23, John 5.1.

He directed harsh words to the Pharisees and other teachers because of what he perceived as their distortion of Mosaic law. (That is the significance of the “den of thieves” passage. That was not ordinary worldly business going on. It was a religious scam. The Law required unblemished animals for sacrifices. The priests determined the condition of the animal. If the priests rejected it as unsatisfactory, the worshipper had to buy another one. And who conveniently offered animals for sale? Those same priests.) I am not aware of anytime he called for abolishment of Mosaic Law or disestablishment of Temple worship in Israel.

lee

jimmiraybob said...

Considering the founder of the Christian religion was executed by the state...

If you're referring to Jesus of Nazareth I don't believe that he was the founder of a religion. He was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet/preacher who's central message to the Jewish people was to get right with God and get ready because He's coming within their lifetimes.

He later became central to what would become Christianity or the Christianities through his life, miracles and resurrection stories told in the canonical Gospels.

Or is this a reference to Paul, who arguably, is the "founder" of one branch of Christianity?

But I do agree that the character of Christianity through Jesus was different than its Pagan or Jewish predecessors or Islam. And much/all of that has to do with Jesus' empowering message to the poor and dispossessed that they were their brother's keeper on their pathway to the coming Kingdom awaiting them - they would inherit more than their secular oppressors could ever hope for.

...simply that the New testament is apolitical.

But if you look at the elements of the NT at the time that they were written then there are a lot of NT scholars that would say otherwise - certainly within the lifetime of Jesus and Paul and John (Revelation) and the NT Gospel writers, politics and rebellion between Jerusalem and Rome was front and center in Jewish life (both secular and religious). And, don't discount the turbulence of internal Jewish politics/religion at the time. (And then there were the turbulent politics of the 2nd-4th centuries during the fashioning of the NT.)

Leaving later theology aside, if 1st century politics in Jerusalem and surrounding territories weren't so highly charged and rebellion there against Rome not such a threat then Jesus might not have been crucified.

Seeing that the Jewish religious authorities at the time were enmeshed with the Pagan Roman authorities and given the urgency of Jesus' apocalyptic message of the imminent coming of God, it would seem that his "render unto Caesar" message was more about not wasting time on worldly matters at the expense of spiritual matters. More than a long-term prescription for church-state relations. To the best of my reckoning Jesus did not see/preach the possibility of a secular/Pagan state and did not envision a man-led church after the coming Kingdom which was to happen within the Apostles' lifetimes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Indeed, revolution was in the air, and the fit hit the shan during Nero's reign.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_War

Or is this a reference to Paul, who arguably, is the "founder" of one branch of Christianity?

Take your pick. The Roman state executed him, too. Under Nero.

bpabbott said...

Re: "I am not sure we can read back “separation of church and state” into these comments of Jesus."

I think it fair to say that those who admire the deeds of Jesus are apt to recognize that he was executed by the state on account of his religious opinion.

If Christianity theology doesn't support separation it isn't because the individual who inspired the religion didn't understand the value of the principle, or didn't demonstrate how firmly he was committed to it.

Pinky said...

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I think it fair to say that those who admire the deeds of Jesus are apt to recognize that he was executed by the state on account of his religious opinion.
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I'm more apt to think he was put up as a sacrifice in order to assuage the primitively minded locals that thought some god wanted blood.
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Sacrificing the innocent is common.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

There's no evidence Jesus was executed by the Romans as anything but as a threat to the civil peace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate

Brad Hart said...

I agree. Pinky, I think it's somewhat silly to say that Jesus was killed to satisfy some ancient need to appease the blood lust of some obscure ancient god. Tom is right. He was killed for upsetting the status quo. His teachings (including the "Render to Caesar" one) had, in the minds of the "higher ups" had gone too far.

Pinky said...

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The entire biblical view of the death of Jesus on the cross is a fulfillment of a need the people had for the sacrifice of an innocent being to assuage the pain of their guilt and to appease their angry god.
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Brad Hart said...

Uhhhh...and you base this on WHAT?

Have you even read the New Testament?

Tom Van Dyke said...

This illustrates why discussions of theology-as-theology become inappropriate for this blog, especially since orthodox Christian theology holds it was God Himself Who died on the cross.

As with all religious beliefs, to discuss this mystical truth claim at an arm's-length level is impossible, as this forum lacks the necessary grounding in theology to discuss it in an adult and respectful manner. They are past our pay-grade.

More interesting is Joseph Story's dispute with Jefferson on whether Christianity is part of [Britain's, and descending from it our] common law.

http://candst.tripod.com/joestor4.htm

Of course, 200-odd years later, with a body of statutory law and judicial precedent behind us, we no longer depend on "common law." But in the immediate post-Founding, there was much uncharted territory, and America was forced to lean on British precedent and common understandings [via Blackstone] of legal terms.

Pinky said...

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Based on Evangelical Christian doctrine.
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bpabbott said...

Sounds like there is good reason to suggest Jesus was put to death for blasphemy.

"Many New Testament scholars state that Jesus claimed to be God through his frequent use of "I am" (e.g. Before Abraham was, I am),[Jn. 8:58] his act of forgiving sins which gave Jews an impression of blasphemy,[Lk. 5:20–21] and his statement that "I and the Father are one."[Jn. 10:30][116] However, a number of New Testament scholars argue that Jesus himself made no claims to being God.[117]"

"Finally, in Matthew 26:61, two witnesses came forward with similar testimony, but Mark 14:55-59 explains that it didn’t meet the legal requirement for conviction. Finally, the Sanhedrin was forced by their own procedures to ask Jesus outright if He claimed to be the Son of God. Not a tactic they preferred, because who would testify against himself if no one else did? But Jesus confessed the crime (Matthew 26:63-66, Mark 14:61-65, Luke 22:70-71). By confessing, Jesus convicted Himself, and the trial was thrown into the penalty phase."

Those are two different links.

Pinky said...

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Could be that. I was just speaking of my apt.
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There was a long standing tradition of law for sacrifice in the ancient religion of the Jews. And, it always included the sacrifice of a pure and innocent being to cover the pain of the guilty. The Gospel of Jesus shows him to be the pur and innocent sacrifice that covers the pain of the guilt of all humanity.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

OK, this isn't funny anymore. This can't be done with Cliffs Notes of the Bible.

However, from the standpoint of the Sanhedrin, things didn’t go smoothly here either. The penalty for blasphemy was death, but since the Romans had taken away their authority to impose the death penalty, they had to refer Jesus to the Roman authorities. By policy, the Romans didn’t get involved in religious disputes, so the Sanhedrin had to emphasize the fact that the word ‘Messiah’ refers to a king, which could be construed as sedition against Rome.

secular square said...

bpabbott
I think most people, whether admirers of Jesus or not, recognize the religious motivation for the execution of Jesus--at least for the Jewish religious leadership. As TVD suggests, the Romans interpreted things differently. I am at a loss of how one can know that Jesus supported the principle of separation aside from biblical theology.
Separation of church/state as a Christian idea emerged in the United States chiefly among dissenting Baptists. Their political pressure successfully disestablished the Anglican Church at the state level down here in the South after the Revolution. And the principle became part of US Constitution. It took much longer to disestablish he Congregational Church up North in New England. There may have been earlier advocates in Europe--I just don't know.

Tom Van Dyke said...

SS, the idea begins to get developed by St. Augustine in the 4th century CE, in his City of God [vs. the city of man].

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Augustine_of_Hippo

In the Greek and especially the Roman view [as with many other civilizations], the "city" [the Greek philosophical term for what we call the "state"] and religion are intertwined: Socrates is put death for impiety toward the gods of the city; Rome's emperor becomes Pontifex Maximus. [Recall Hobbes suggests something similar, and he's usually called an "Enlightenment" figure.]

In [Augustine's] early years he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterwards by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus,[5] but after his conversion and baptism (387), he developed his own approach to philosophy and theology accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom and framed the concepts of original sin and just war. When the Roman Empire in the West was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book of the same name) distinct from the material Earthly City. His thought profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. Augustine's City of God was closely identified with the church, and was the community which worshipped God.

Of course, Jesus gets the ball rolling with the give to Caesar bit, and what if he hadn't? The failure of the Jewish revolt of 66 AD immediately bears him out, resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the Jewish diaspora, where the seed of Abraham is scattered to the winds and the four corners of the earth.

Luther picks up the thread with his "Two Kingdoms," but the tension between the two cities [and kingdoms] had already been played out hundreds of years before in Europe's

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investiture_Controversy

Oh, my. I just realized how much participating in this blog for 1.5 years has obliged me to hit the books. That's a lot of the history of the West for one gulp. Sorry.

bpabbott said...

Re: " However, from the standpoint of the Sanhedrin, things didn’t go smoothly here either. The penalty for blasphemy was death, but since the Romans had taken away their authority to impose the death penalty, they had to refer Jesus to the Roman authorities. By policy, the Romans didn’t get involved in religious disputes, so the Sanhedrin had to emphasize the fact that the word ‘Messiah’ refers to a king, which could be construed as sedition against Rome."

Tom, I'm not clear on your thoughts. Do you see this as supporting the view that Jesus was executed for blasphemy?

Sounds to me like that is what was done. Only it was illegal to do so directly. Thus, a little political rhetoric (sophistry) was introduced to get it done.

bpabbott said...

Re: "I am at a loss of how one can know that Jesus supported the principle of separation aside from biblical theology."

I'm not making a assertion on Jesus' cognizant opinion.

Only pointing out that he was willing to die rather the surrender his religious liberty to the state or church.

I'm also not claiming that Christian theology supports separation. But I do wonder why it is that many who follow it don't recognize the role separation played in the crucifixion of Jesus.

Pinky said...

How can we apply our sense of the legal with that of the ancient rules employed under Roman rule over the outlying districts?
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The Roman law allowed certain local authority under some circumstances.
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The local authority in the area where Pilot held forth was the Sanhedrin. The Bible tells us that a group within the Sanhedrin conspired to get rid of Jesus. The case they built was on blasphemy which means to speak on behalf of God a crime punishable by death.
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Popular Christian doctrine tells us that God ordained blood sacrifice as early as Genesis when Cain kills Abel.
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Throughout the Old Testament, there are rules established that control sacrifice. It is obvious that sacrifices are made to act as propitiation with God to overcome the separation between men and God made by sin.
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As the Bible is claimed to be the Revealed Word of God, His purpose must have been carried out in the execution of Jesus.
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Whatever the claimed purposes of the crucifixion were, it is the main point of Salvation as explained by Christianity that Jesus was a sacrifice made by God to propitiate for the sins of all humanity.
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And, that is another point of Evangelical Christianity; What ever men do for their sake, God preempts for His purposes.
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How can we argue the supernatural and divine?
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Pinky said...

After all is written, it appears that the debate here is an argument over truth based on the Bible as the source for judgment.
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Pinky said...

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Jesus, very definitely, made this statement in John 18:36 which implies a galactic separation between church and state.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom, I'm not clear on your thoughts. Do you see this as supporting the view that Jesus was executed for blasphemy?

Sounds to me like that is what was done. Only it was illegal to do so directly. Thus, a little political rhetoric (sophistry) was introduced to get it done.


Pilate executes Jesus to keep the peace. But the Gospel narrative makes it clear he is innocent of sedition, and Pilate himself says, "I find no fault in the man!"

And this does get into the blood sacrifice bit---the proper sacrifice must be unblemished.

Keep in mind the world at that time: blood sacrifice was at the center of both the Jewish and pagan religions. Indeed, it seems to be a "human" thing---it's in Islam, Hinduism, we found it in the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

So what decent religion doesn't have blood sacrifice? Geez. We have to keep in mind the time and place, and the audience.

But the Christian mythos turns it all on its head. Even Jehovah didn't permit Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Yet God gives his own Son! The perfect sacrifice, hence, the "Lamb of God." [And if you follow through to the Trinity, God Himself suffers at man's own hands!]

Radical stuff, must have been mind-blowing in that age.

But what's clear is Jesus indeed establishes "Two Kingdoms," saying to Pilate,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over... John 18:36

also acquitting him of the sedition charge, since he does not fight Caesar.

You have to get even more theological with the rest of it. How was it that the Jews had lost the temporal power to execute for blasphemy? How was it that the 66 CE political uprising of the Jews resulted in the Second Temple soon destroyed, putting an end to Jewish blood sacrifice that continues to this day? None of this stuff was lost on Christian theologians.

Pinky said...

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heh heh
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Daniel said...

The reason(s) for Jesus' execution are a matter of significant historical debate. If Jesus claimed to be Messiah or King of the Jews, those titles would have been understood as a direct threat to Roman rule. The Gospels give varying explanations and careful analysis does not seem to give a definitive explanation.

As for the topic of the post, it is critical to notice that Jesus lived under pagan rule. Of course he wanted to separate Jewish religion from the Roman State. But expanding that to general application is difficult. If he claimed the title "Messiah", that has implications for politics and religion that were inseparable at the time. Of course, what titles he actually claimed and what he meant by his claims will continue to be a matter of debate for a long time. But whether we accept the Gospels at face value or accept a more critical reading, drawing direct application to modern notions is a bit tricky.