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Islamic and Jewish Views of Jesus

Image via Pixabay

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Although Judaism, Christianity and Islam all assert that they teach pure monotheism, only Christianity proclaims that Jesus was the Son of God; and a third of a Divine trinity (a trifold unity. Christians also believe Jesus was a Divine Messiah (Greek Christ) predicted centuries before by several Jewish prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Jews say the Messiah is always human.

In the Qur’an, Jesus is referred to in ninety three verses in fifteen surahs; and mentioned by name twenty-five times as “son of Mary” or “Messiah Jesus, son of Mary”.

Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was born to a virgin, was sinless, performed miracles, and was superior to other prophets. Both Islam and Judaism teach that Jesus was not in any way Divine. Jews think Jesus was only a Rabbi. Islam teaches Jesus was no more than a prophet.

Islam, denies the central teaching and belief of Christianity by denying Jesus’ divinity, crucifixion, and resurrection. Judaism denies divinity. Both religions deny original sin.

Jews and Muslims are both in fundamental agreement that neither Jesus, nor any other human, should be worshiped as a God or as any part of the one and only God.

But doesn’t the Qur’an state: “The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call the Messiah a son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (thus) they only imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say (pagans who believed their many Gods had many divine or semi-divine children). Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Qur’an 9:30)

English: Baptism of Christ

Baptism of Christ via Wikipedia

Now there are a half dozen different places in the Qur’an where the Christian claim that Jesus is the son of God is refuted and denied. For example, “Jesus son of Mary, did you ever say to people ‘worship me and my mother as Gods beside Allah?’ and he will answer, ‘How could I say what I had no right to say?’” 5:116

Also, “Jesus in the sight of Allah is like Adam” 3:59. and “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger of Allah…do not say :Trinity. Stop saying that.” 4:171 Jews agree 100% with these ayahs.

And general statements like “those who say, ‘Allah has begotten a son.’ have no knowledge about it, nor did their forefathers; this is a monstrous word that comes from their mouths. They utter nothing but a lie.” 18:4,5 and 5:72-75, and 19:30. Jews also agree 100% with this.

Indeed, the verse that follows 9:30 specifically applies to Jesus: They take their priests (Ahbar) and their monks to be their Lords in derogation of Allah, and (take as their Lord) the Messiah the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him). (Qur’an 9:31)

Then how shall we understand the Qur’an’s statement: ‘The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah”?

Al-Tabari and Abdallah ibn Ubayd state that only one Jew (Pinhas) viewed Uzayr as the son of God. Ibn Abbas and Qurtubi say only four Jews, whose names they record, believed Uzayr was a son of God. Ibn Hazm said that just a small group of Jews in Yemen worshipped ʿUzayr as a son of God in some remote period.

Since the Jews of Yemen, who have lived there since the third or fourth century, do have an old tradition not to name their children Ezra, perhaps there was such a small, short lived, heretical sect that later generations wanted to forget.

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

Child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right via Wikipedia

But most Christians to this day, proudly proclaim that they do indeed worship Jesus, the Son of God. Jews however, have always vehemently denied that they worship any partner or other God except the one and only God. So how can we understand the difference between the two seemingly parallel statements in ayah 9:30?

There is a Hadith in Sunan Al-tirmidhi which says that the Jews worship their Rabbi’s. One of the companions said that this is not true. Then Muhammad said that they accept what their Rabbi’s say over the word of God; so in this way they worship them. This Hadith provides an important clue.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians actually do venerate and pray to both Jesus and his mother Mary; but only a small party of Jews figuratively venerate their rabbis as Muhammad says because, “they accept what their Rabbi’s say, over the word of God, so in this way they worship them”.

This Hadith is correct. Orthodox Jews believe in both a written Torah and an oral (unwritten) Torah which has been handed down for over 3,200 years, ever since Sinai. They often observe Judaism according to the rabbinic interpretation of this oral Torah.

For example, the Torah states that the new Jewish year starts: “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow ram horns”. (Numbers 29:1)

This one day holy day, was turned into a two day holy day some 17-18 centuries ago, when most Jews lived outside the Land of Israel and could not be sure exactly when the lunar new year calendar began. A similar issue exists for Muslims in determining the start of Ramadan, which is why in some years two different days mark the beginning of Ramadan in various parts of the world.

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 via Wikipedia

Thus, different circumstances produce different rituals and legal systems, but basic theology can differ only in unessential details. As the sage of Konya, Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says, “Ritual prayer might differ in every religion, but belief never changes.” (Fihi Mafih 49)

The Qur’an also states 4:171 “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ (Messiah) Jesus the son of Mary was (only) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (He is far) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth.”

The Qur’an credits Messiah Jesus as being a Word of God. What does this mean? The Qur’an also states 43:61: “And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but you (should) follow Me: this is a Straight Way.”

Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, son of David; because the Messianic Age of international peace clearly has not yet come about. But Jesus could have been the Messiah, son of Aaron or Joseph (Yusuf) who according to rabbinic teachings will be killed by the anti-Messianic forces (Romans) before the coming of the son of David Messiah, and the final judgement and resurrection.

Bernardino Luini – Holy Family with the Infant St John via Wikipedia

The belief in two different messiahs, one a moral political leader from the house of David (Davidson) and the other, a religious reformer from the house of Aaron (Aronson), and a special “end of days” prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14) is also found in inter-testament literature.

A Dead Sea scroll states that the Qum’ran community must live according to the original discipline “until there shall come a prophet (Elijah) and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (Manuel of Discipline 9:11). There is also a rabbinic belief in a messianic figure from the northern tribes; a son of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is killed by Roman enemies.

Rabbi Maller’s website is: www.rabbimaller.com. An ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California, Rabbi Maller has published over 100 articles about Islamic and Jewish connections on Islamic and Jewish web sites. His newest book is ‘Judaism and Islam: Synergistic Monotheisms.’ He is also the author of a book on Jewish mysticism.

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 Cardinal Quevedo urges interreligious dialogue amid terror (rappler.com)


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“I’m a – – – – Starboy”

Okay. I like this song. I like it a lot. I’m not sure if I like the censored version better than the uncensored. I mean, I am all for freedom of expression. Even as a Christian, I am not against the artist who put a cross in a bottle of urine (can’t remember the name offhand, and don’t really care to). On some level, that “art” might mean something worthwhile to someone.

Usually, I deplore censorship.

However, this tune raises some interesting questions.

The two main contentious words are the N-word and the MF-word (be forewarned if you follow the links from the above tweet).

So why can The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk can use these words, get about a billion hits at YouTube but if little ‘ol me were to use these words in this here blog, I’d run the risk of being sued?

Double standard?

As for the censored vs. uncensored versions, I admit that while out the other night with my FM/MP3 player, I really liked hearing the censored version on FM. Cutting out the heavy stuff just made it more spiritual.

Hearing the word “Starboy” after a string of synced scratches instead of the MF-word made the whole experience far more transcendent. Walking along a moderately busy road, I could almost envision that Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey watching over us, making sure we don’t blast ourselves to hell.

So what’s the story? Should this tune be “cleaned up” for radio?

 The Weeknd Announces A Second Leg Of Legends Of The Fall Tour (thefader.com)

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 10 Great Musician Selfies for National Selfie Day (v103.cbslocal.com)

 Drake, the Chainsmokers, and all the winners from the Billboard Music Awards (mashable.com)

 Exclusive: Selena Gomez Denies Collaborating with The Weeknd on New Music (now100fm.cbslocal.com)

 China bans online videos showing homosexuality, affairs (rappler.com)


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Panentheism – Nope… it’s not a spelling mistake…

Over at Earthpages.ca I’ve been doing some heavy duty revising. It’s my way of being a scholar and journalist at the same time. If only I got paid for it!

Oh well, better to try to do the right thing than to peddle products in the name of God. So many ‘squeaky clean’ Christians do that and, frankly, it turns me off big time.

For me, washing the inside of the cup is far more important than washing the outside (Matthew 23:26). Keeping both sides clean is best. But given a choice, the inside is what counts most.

What does this mean?

Usually when I hear Catholic homilies about this teaching they seem to fall short. Catholicism is great but, let’s face it, there’s a lot of worldliness too.

Some people gloss over it. Others repress it. But it’s there. I guess that’s why I’m not a priest or a monk. I would have liked to have been. But it’s just too much polishing up the outside while ignoring the inside.

Familiar patterns may be necessary. But they can also be used as a crutch to prevent real change. Inner change. Reel off the printed prayers, go to confession, give the ‘offering,’ and you get to heaven!

Hmm. I’m not convinced.

As any priest or preacher worth their salt will emphasize, what matters most is internal change. We have to dig deep into our own faults and not dismiss them as “weakness” but, rather, work toward eradicating them. Not easy. And it takes time. But anything else is just whitewash.

But I digress. My intent here is to introduce another entry about different ways people conceptualize God. Panentheism is not a spelling mistake. It’s just another variety in the endless chain of trying to make sense of something far bigger than ourselves.

 Why it was once unthinkable for a US president to be seen with the Pope(businessinsider.com)

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 Chris Selley: Saskatchewan ruling on Catholic schools could be historic – if it holds up (news.nationalpost.com)

 Why hasn’t there been a Catholic President since JFK? (irishcentral.com)

 There’s literally a startup accelerator at the Vatican now (mashable.com)

 Pope names cardinals for Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain, El Salvador (japantimes.co.jp)

 Stephen Colbert won in another debate about the existence of God with Ricky Gervais (businessinsider.com)

 Ondo CAN Preaches Religious Tolerance Among Nigerians (sundiatapost.com)


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What is the difference between religion and spirituality?

A lot of folks say that religion and spirituality are different. Some go as far to say that people go to church merely for social, emotional or aesthetic experiences. But this is a gross simplification, one influenced, I think, by the new ‘religion’ of science, which has brainwashed many.

Would the Catholic Church, for instance, have lasted over 2000 years if it was just about club membership, laughing, crying, and pretty sights and sounds? Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s sociological study, Commitment and Community suggests that most cults dwindle away and die after their charismatic leader dies. Not so with Christianity. The death of the leader made Christians even more committed, to the point of willingly undergoing cruel death at the hands of the ancient Romans.

Contrary to what the materialists say, many real, living people report experiencing a purely spiritual indwelling at their church. They also report feeling a great sense of peace, transformation, and a unique kind of spiritual elevation. It’s not quite the same as going to the bingo hall, the dance club or the football game. The funny thing is, those adhering to the new ‘religion’ of science tend to ignore or reinterpret these real life reports of church-centered spirituality to make them ft with their materialistic way of seeing things.

Even some who critique science and lean toward a Gnostic (gnōsis is a Greek word for “knowledge”) type of spirituality often say that religion and spirituality are like oil and water. They’ll never mix.

But for me there’s an overlap among religions and spirituality. They need not be mutually exclusive. Moreover, we’re all different, with our particular needs evolving to suit different stages of our lives. So we hear stories about firm fundamentalist Christians trying to convert people in their youth, who later in life question their beliefs and begin to explore new interpretations of ancient scripture (e.g. Bart Ehrman). Or the Catholic Mother Superior who drops out of her convent to become a professor, where she hopes she will encounter less chauvinism and institutional hypocrisy.

I’ve talked with many people whose needs are always changing. And I’m one of them. Why should life be any different? We’re not sterile creatures locked up in a test tube. We’re living, breathing, organic creatures thirsting for meaning in an apparently meaningless creation.


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Jesus… myth, fact or a bit of both?


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A Brief Guide to African-American Worship

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr Ty King

While the diverse cultures of the Christian world have their distinctive and beautiful approaches of worshipping, there’s something distinctively enriching regarding African-American Christian worship. We trust it exemplifies principal outlines of thought & experience that do much to praise it to Christians far and wide.

Anyone who has noticed or partaken in an Afro-American Christian worship facility will agree that there’s an indisputable dissimilarity between the manner American Blacks worship & the worship of other ethnic and racial groups. Embedded in their distinctive social past in America, the similarity is more one of function & experience in comparison to proof that one approach is better to another.

The custom of Afro-American worshipping together persisted to progress throughout the late nineteenth century and carries on to till date in spite of the turn down of segregationist approaches and the standard acceptability of integrated devotion. African American Churches in Charlotte, NC have long been the hubs of communities, serving as school locations in the early years following the Civil War, hosting social welfare functions, like offering help for the poor, and going on to established schools, or prison and orphanage ministeries. Consequently, black churches have promoted influential community organizations and offered spiritual & political leadership, especially throughout the civil rights movement.

Tasks of Afro-American worship:

With no posturing to being comprehensive, the following are some modern tasks of Afro-American worship and it must carry on:

  • To reproduce the collective experience of Afro-Americans without lessening the critical focus of worship admiration of & for divinity.
  • To contain inventive tension its unmistakable emphasis on fixing the injustices & disproportion in this globe with eschatological focal point on the life to come.
  • To find a balance between impulsiveness and order
  • To be commemorative without surrendering to emotionalism.
  • To empower worship and rejoice Christ.

Afro-American worship has played an important part in the Afro-American society. Slaves who didn’t discard their African spiritual legacy came to admit the God of their masters, devoting God initially in the Invisible Institution and afterward in their free cathedrals.

There was revised Christianity exceptionally suited to fulfill the requirements of their existential circumstance. A merriment of God’s redemptive deeds in history and on their behalf, their devotion offered them with pastoral attention, freedom, and empowerment. Music, prayer and the sermonized words are amongst the rudiments of their devotion, meant to carry on to be a “Balm in Gilead” for the rest of the journey.

Source: A Brief Guide to African-American Worship


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Merry Christmas!

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To celebrate Christmas I worked on a tune that started out as an exercise in exotic scales. There’s an app at Reaper.fm, the digital workstation that I use, that has countless scales. Probably more than anyone could ever use. So I picked a few that sounded good, tried to blend them together, and soon after realized that it was turning into an unconventional Christmas Story (musically speaking).

Just tonight on Christmas Eve I was watching a show about the flight into Egypt. How Joseph and Mary had to flee from the paranoid King Herod, who was killing all the firstborn because he got wind from the Magi that a King had been born. After a while, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, I felt that this tune sort of captured the flight.

Unconventional, yes. But then, so was Jesus Christ, who continues to be more radical (in a good way) than any other figure to have walked this Earth.

Merry Christmas to all who wish to celebrate this hallowed holiday. The lights and gifts are great. But they’re just symbols of something far greater.

Enjoy!

–Michael Clark