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Vasu Murti

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Refuting 'so much garbage'

Christians argue they are no longer under Mosaic Law, because Paul referred to his background as a former Pharisee and previous adherence to Mosaic Law (with its dietary laws and commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals) as "so much garbage." (Philippians 3:4-8)

Nothing in the synoptic gospels suggests a break with Judaism. Jesus was called "Rabbi," meaning "Master" or "Teacher," 42 times in the gospels. Jesus' ministry was a rabbinic one. He went to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), taught in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23, 13:54; Mark 1:39), expressed concern for Jairus, "one of the rulers of the synagogue" (Mark 5:36) and it "was his custom" to go to the synagogue (Luke 4:16).

Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15) These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations.

When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28)

Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs." His gospel was intended for the Jewish people. Even the apostle Paul admits that the gospel was first intended for the Jews, and that the Jews have every advantage over the gentiles in this regard. (Romans 1:16, 3:1-2)

When a scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Torah, Jesus began with "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God, is One Lord." This is the Shema, which is still heard in every synagogue service to this day. "And you shall love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus concluded.

When the scribe agreed that God is one and that to love Him completely and also love one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," Jesus replied, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:25-28)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself said:

"Do not suppose I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

Jesus also upheld the Torah in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid."

Nor do these words refer merely to the Ten Commandments. Jesus meant the entire Torah: 613 commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well: "Do not defraud." (Mark 10:17-22)

Jesus' disciples were once accused by the scribes and Pharisees of violating rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:5), but not biblical law. Jesus never says anywhere in the entire New Testament that the Law is abolished; this was Paul's theology. Paul openly identified himself not as a Jew but as a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8).

Sometimes Christians cite Matthew 7:12, where Jesus says "Do unto others..." and this "covers" the Law and the prophets. But Jesus was merely repeating in the positive what Rabbi Hillel taught a generation earlier. No one took Hillel's words to mean the Law had been abolished--why should we assume this of Jesus?

If Jesus really came to abolish the Law and the prophets, Simon (Peter) would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals (Acts 10), nor would there have been a debate in the early church as to what extent the gentiles were to observe Mosaic Law (Acts 15). When Paul visited the church at Jerusalem, James and the elders told him all its members were "zealous for the Law," and they were worried because they heard rumors Paul was preaching against Mosaic Law (Acts 21).

None of these events would have happened had Jesus really come to abolish the Law and the prophets.

Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law, he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals!

While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath. "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham...be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked. (Luke 13:10-16)

On yet another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath. "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:1-5)

Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep. He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock:

"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

"I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)

Paul, on the other hand, says if anyone has confidence in the Law, "I am ahead of him."

Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who said he did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets? Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who said whoever sets aside even the least of the Law's demands shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19)?

Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who taught that following the commandments of God is the only way to eternal life (Mark 10:17-22)? Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus who said that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid (Luke 16:17)?

Paul may have regarded the Law as "so much garbage," but it should be obvious JESUS DIDN'T THINK THE LAW WAS "GARBAGE"!

If Christians assign greater value to Paul's teachings over those of Jesus, then "Christianity" really is "Paulianity." Bertrand Russell referred to Paul as the "inventor" of Christianity.

I'm not saying Christians should all be circumcised and following Mosaic Law. The Reverend Andrew Linzey, the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations and author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals (1987), rejected such an approach in a 1989 interview with the Animals' Agenda.

I'm merely saying that Christianity for the past 2000 years has been based on a misunderstanding. My friend Rankin Fisher (a former Missionary Baptist minister), quoted a Methodist minister friend of his as having admitted, "We (Christians) aren't really following Jesus. We're following Paul."

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