Would Jesus enjoy Christmas?

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21,2007 Wi JTNE
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Robert Kupor Special to JTNews
Note: The following is an excerpt from Robert Kupor's book, Jesus the Misunderstood Jew: What the New Testament Really Says about the Man from Nazareth.

'This Chrisnnas, we will be regaled, once more, with the Jesus nativity stories. Few realize, however, that the four Gospel nativity stories all contradict one another. 'This situation actually exemplifies the entire Gospels, which record Jesus' adult ministry in multiple, discrepant versions. In fact, most of Jesus' anti-Judaic words or actions in any particular Gospel story are refuted elsewhere by a philo-Judaic version. The latter are commonly overlooked by Christians. Still, the main point is that the Gospels are too contradictory to allow Jesus' , identity to be understood.


Fortunately, two other New Testament writings provide the necessary lodestar: Acts of the Apostles and Paul's Letters. Acts, written by the author of Luke' s Gospel, is the only account of the lives of the Twelve Disciples following Jesus' death. Paul's Letters confinn Acts' key insights. Being the only available sources about the post-Jesus period, they are universally accepted by scholars as essentially accurate. Yet they are relatively unknown to others, because they have long been de-emphasized by Christian religious leaders: Why? Because these sources reveal Jesus to be Jewish, not Christian.



Acts' revelatory moment comes when Peter ("St. Peter") - the leader of Jesus' Disciples - is invited to the home of the centurion Cornelius. Cornelius was a "Godfearer" (a Gentile who attended synagogue, but refused to convert through circumci-: sion) who was instructed by an ~gel to seek out Peter. Upon arriving, Peter said, "You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, but [I see] that...in every nation anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable.' [Then] Peter ... [and his companions] were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit [i.e., ruach] had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard [Cornelius' household] speaking in ~ongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone withhold the water baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' So he ordered them to be baptized." These passages (Acts 10:15-48) reveal that Peter, years after Jesus' death, continued to consider himself Jewish and Gentiles as unclean, and had always understood baptism and membership in the Jesus sect [believers that Jesus was the Messiah] as restricted to observant Jews.
Equally remarkable was the. aftermath.


When Peter returned to the Jerusalem "Jesus synagogue," which he headed; he recounted the Cornelius miracle to the awe-'struck congregants. Yet years later, when some Jerusalem members learned that a Jew had begun admitting Gentiles to his Jesus-sect congregation in Antioch (Syria), they traveled there, insisting that, "Unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). They demanded that the heretical leader Paul ("St. Paul") ~ justify his unauthorized actions to Peter and to others at the Jerusalem synagogue. Thus begun the historic Council ofJerusalem of 48 CE (two decades after Jesus' de,ath). Here a great debate erupted over accepting Gentiles into the Jesus sect (Acts 15:3-21). But why such controversy? Hadn't Cornelius already proven that Gentiles were admissible?


The answer is "No." According to the Catholic Study Bible, the official Biblewith-commentary of the American Catholic Church (written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops); Peter and his colleagues "had concluded that the setting aside of the legal barrier between Jew and Gentile [i:e., Cornelius] was an exceptional ordinance of God," limited to Cornelius' household. So, after extended debate at the Jerusalem Council, Peter finally ruled that the Jesus sect would remain wholly Jewish within Palestine, but that Paul's activities could continue in Gentile nations. As noted by the Catholic Study Bible, "Only ... at the Council...does the evangelization of Gentiles become the official position of the .. .leadership in Jerusalem ... Christianity might have remained a [Jewish] sect ... [had it not been] almost immediately opened to the Gentiles [by Paul]."


What Peter failed to anticipate, unfortunately, was that by 70 CE the disastrous First Jewish Revolt would destroy both Jerusalem

and the original, Jewish core of the Jesus sect. By default, the mantle of "authority" fell upon the burgeoning Gentile congregations surrounding Palestine. In any event, Acts/Paul's Letters is the lodestar for understanding Jesus. Once his Jewishness is recognized, it becomes possible to understand him, once the Gospels' patently inauthentic anti-Judaic passages are parsed away. What was his message? Did he declare himself Messiah? How was he regarded by his family, his neighbors, the Jewish commoners and religious authorities? What led to his death in Jerusalem? What about his resurrection? And how did this man from Nazareth become a god after his death? The answers, drawn directly from the New Testament, are unexpected and fascinating.


After receiving a Ph.D. from Harvard University in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and conducting postdoctoral research in biochemistry at the University of California at San Francisco, Robert Kupor became an assistant professor of biology at the University of Tennessee. The efforts "of fundamentalists there to convert him to Christianity sparked a lifelong interest in Jesus and the New Testament. Kupor has an MBA in Finance from the University of Washington, and started a successful career as a biomedical analyst on Wall Street. He has been a partner at FraZIer & Co, and senior vice' president at Kidder, Peabody, & Co. on . Wall Street. He currently lives in Seattle.