The New Testament Version of Judaism

Dr Thomas Hickey

Yakov wrote:

I can only say in the strongest possible way that it is a mistake of major proportions to draw any conclusions about the nature of Judaism (as Dr. Hickey does) from the way it is portrayed in the New Testament since the latter is so filled with errors and disinformation about the beliefs and practices of Judaism that it would be comical had it not been so catestrophic for the Jewish people.

in response to which I had written:

On the other hand, there is the assertion of Jesus that "Before Abraham was, I am," and "I and the Father are one," which, if we are to believe the NT reports, the rabbis of the time considered blasphemous....
Considering that this mystical testimony of the realization of Unity is found in virtually all other mystical traditions, it has always seemed to me that it would be quite remarkable if it were not found in mystical Judaism also. Yet, I have not yet been able to uncover it other than in Jesus and Sabbatai Zevi, both of whom conventional Judaism has rejected as false prophets, judging from what I have read.

It seems I may need to qualify my remarks with more precision. My point in citing the sayings attributed to Jesus was simply to notice that in the history of mystical Judaism, considering Jesus to have been a Jew at the time he putatively made the assertions of unity attributed to him, I have only found these few alleged testimonies to experience of full realization of God, comparable to the many in other traditions I cited. It may be that they were not actually uttered by Jesus in either these words or similar sentiments. For example, the scholars of the Jesus Seminar assign a low probability of their having actually been uttered by Jesus instead of being attributed to him subsequently.

Of course, I am well aware that there is a great controversy swelling around the distinction between the historical Jesus the Jew and the mythological Christ-figure, which have been conflated until relatively recently. Moreover, New Testament scholarship is revealing that the versions we now possess at any rate were not written firsthand and of a piece by the eyewitnesses to whom they are attributed but are the products of the largely Gentile Christians, produced over time at a later date from earlier sources - and that the gospel the the Jewish followers of Jesus of that time is now unfortunately lost. It is not my purpose to spark a controversy concerning the historical facts concerning Jesus, especially since it seems to be an impossible task to establish anything rigorously, lacking discovery of additional evidence.

While the historical facts will likely never be established  with any degree of accuracy which can be rigorously substantiated, we do know that subsequently to the annihilation of the Jerusalem community led by James the brother of Jesus, called Tzaddik, elements of the Jesus story were altered to accommodate it to the social and political environment, which before long consisted mostly of Hellenistic Gentiles living under Roman rule. Overtime, a mythology developed which was not only conflated with fact but also privileged as inspired writ and, after the fourth century C.E., it was protected as infallible and unquestionable by Christian state power. It was not until Winkelman in the last century bravely began to publish his controversial research that the mythos began to be distinguished from historical fact, whence evolved liberal theology, the reaction of Fundamentalism to it, and now the radicalism of the Jesus Seminar, as if a counter to retrenchment.  I thought I was indicating such reservations when I said, "if we are to believe the NT reports," implying that the facts are not established historically.

In the end, the mythos that has grown up around the historical Jesus the Jew has not only been conflated with historical fact but it has also been a shaper of history. Subsequently, just as Gentile Christianity sought to separate itself from its Jewish roots, so too did Judaism then in turn seek to isolate itself from its Christian oppressors. It has occurred to me that this may well be one reason for the paucity of testimony in mystical Judaism which might be compared to these putative statements attributed  Jesus, no Jewish mystics wishing to draw such comparison upon themselves. Again, it is questionable historically whether the rabbis of the time condemned such assertions by Jesus as blasphemous if they were uttered at all; yet, some of my Jewish friends have told me that they have been taught that Jesus is a false messiah and also that it is blasphemous for anyone to assert that one is the embodiment of God, Moses having been the epitome of prophecy and he never made any such a claim for himself. It would seem then that even if the NT account is not historically accurate regarding the teaching of that time, the story has shaped history and is reflected in common attitudes today.

My point is that regardless of whether the historical Jesus actually uttered the remarks attributed to him in the above regard, or whether they were regarded as blasphemous by the rabbis of the time, they remain the only evidence of anything comparable to aham brahmasmi or anal Haqq that I have found to appear even loosely associated with the Judaic mystical tradition, again assuming Jesus to have been a Jew to whom such testimony has been attributed, whether truly or not. However, these putative assertions of Jesus are not integral to my point concerning comparative mysticism made in the earlier post about Professor's Huss's response to Prof. Dugin, nor are they germane to my question as to whether there is anything comparable in Judaic mystical testimonies to  aham brahmasmi and anal Haqq.

I would like to have a clearer answer to this question for two reasons. First, I am interested in mystical testimonies from the comparative vantage and would like to have more specific knowledge about the Judaic, including references if possible. Secondly, it would be useful in order better to understand what the followers of Sabbatai Zevi are postulating of him and his state of mystical realization. and since this discussion of Sabbatai Zevi is taking place largely in terms of the Jewish tradition from which he came, it would also be helpful to know how this fits in with the teaching of Rabbinic Judaism, i.e., where the agreements and disagreements lie, presupposing there are any.

These questions may seem naive and simplistic to those who have grown up in the Jewish tradition and are familiar with these issues, but for those of us who have not, it is not at all obvious, so I hope you will bear with me on this.

Shalom, Salaam, Shanti,

Tom Hickey


About the author: external link Thomas Hickey is Director of the Circle School, spiritual counselor, Vedic astrologer, Yogacharya of the Advaitin tradition, Bishop in apostolic succession in the Communion of the Christos, and Taoist sifu.



posted on the Donmeh mail list
Mon, 25 Oct 1999

previousIsaac Luria and Sabbatai Zevi in Russian Orthodoxy - Professor Alexander Dugin

previousProf. Dugin On "Exoteric" vs. "Mystical" Judaism - Professor Boaz Huss

previousUnion With God in Judaism? Not According to Gospels - Dr. Thomas Hickey

nextGod's Seed: A Comment On Union with God in Judaism- Professor Boaz Huss

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