Toward the Light
The Doctrine of Atonement and the Shorter Road
“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.” —Matthew 7: 26.
Can the doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus be defended if seen as the Jewish sin offering described in the Bible? How did this doctrine come about?
Precepts for offering sacrifices are given by Jehovah in the Pentateuch. They are given as commandments and they thus become laws. Jehovah, for example, bids the people of Israel bring “unblemished” animals for the sin-offering to the door of his tent, that they may be sacrificed before the tabernacle. The blood must be sprinkled upon the altar, and the offering “shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.” (Leviticus 16: 27). But those who follow the ancient custom, those “that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp. . .that man shall be cut off from among his people”; for if they continue to sacrifice in this manner, they “offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a-whoring.” (Leviticus 17: 3, 4, 7).
In explanation, it is stated in Leviticus 17: 11:1 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
And in verse 14 it is further stated: “. . . therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.”
Thus: if the blood of the unblemished offering is sprinkled upon the altar of Jehovah, it then atones for or cleanses the guilt of sin of those who make the offering; but if the blood is shed in the open field, then they have “gone a-whoring” after evil spirits, and Jehovah condemns them to be “cut off” from among the people.
In view of this, can the interpretation of the death of Jesus on the cross as an offering of atonement be made to conform with the precepts of the Mosaic Law?
Since sacrificial animals had to be selected from among those “without blemish”, it must first be ascertained whether Jesus in every respect was a perfect and sin-free human being who can be compared with these unblemished animals, whose blood atoned for human sin.
The personality of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament should form the basis for a just comparison. But Jesus, as we meet him here, is neither perfect nor free of sin. He is human like any other human being, even though he by far transcends his contemporaries in love, compassion, humility and patience.
What must therefore be proven is that the nature of Jesus was not entirely without blemish.
In Matthew 8: 21-22, for example, it is written: “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” Would a perfect human being answer in this way? Should not a perfect man know that the loss of one’s father is cause for grief? Should he not be aware of the deep hurt he inflicts by such a reply to a request for leave to bid the last farewell to the earthly body of one’s father? But the answer given by Jesus also implies this: those who follow me not are spiritually dead, and therefore they are of no interest to me; if you wish to follow me, you must do as I do, turn from those who are not with us, who disagree with us. And although Jesus knew that the teaching he preached was far superior to Judaism, his reply was both unkind and filled with pride.
Matthew 12: 47-50 reads: “Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister, and mother.” Jesus says, in other words: “I care only about those who do my Father’s will, all others are of no consequence to me, even though they be my relatives.” What mother and brother would not feel wounded, would not feel distressed at hearing such words from a son and brother whom they surely loved deeply and sincerely themselves? Would not a perfect human being much sooner have sought to draw his own kin closer to him, even though they could not understand him or his relationship to the Heavenly Father? Would not a perfect human being have grieved constantly over his inability to lead his closest relatives in the path that he himself walked?
In Mark 11 it is told that one day when Jesus was hungry he looked for figs upon a fig tree, but found only leaves, “for the time of figs was not yet.” Jesus curses the tree—and it withers! Would a perfect human being curse a tree that in accordance with the laws of nature bears fruit at certain times, and thus is not to blame that it cannot refresh the seeker out of season? A purely human vexation at not finding anything that could satisfy his hunger lies behind Jesus’s curse. In truth a poor reason for a curse—if it is to be taken literally! 2
In a number of other passages in the Gospels, Jesus also emerges not without blemish. A perfect human being thus cannot become violent, embittered and intemperate, or use disparaging words about his fellow humans, as Jesus often did in anger. For example: “Ye hypocrites” (Matthew 15: 7; 22: 18; 23: 13-14 etc.), “whited sepulchres” (Matthew 23: 27), “Ye generation of vipers” (Matthew 23: 33), “for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8: 44).
The personality of Jesus as described in the Gospels shows clearly that he was not a perfect, a sin-free human being. And even though allowance must be made for the fact that the Gospels were not put into writing until long after the death of Jesus, and therefore must be, and in fact are, inaccurate on many points, it should also be remembered that death reconciles and conceals so much. Faults are diminished and forgotten in the light of all the good and splendid things that were said or done by the departed one. And thus has it also happened with the memories of Jesus. The few who had joined course with him grieved deeply over the loss of their mentor. They sought to remember the good, the splendid and the kind, while the purely human, the unkind and the imperfect receded more and more from their memory. Still, it is not a faultless figure who emerges before us in the accounts of the Gospels; for however humble, loving, helpful and patient Jesus was in his earthly life, he was still truly a human being, a son of man, and thus could not possibly be free of sin in the world of sin and death in which he lived.
The comparison of Jesus with the unblemished offering is thus groundless, it holds not, for in no way can it be reconciled with the accounts in the Gospels.
Next, it must be investigated whether the death of Jesus on the cross can rightfully be compared with the Jewish sin-offering.
If the blood of the unblemished offering is sprinkled upon the altar of Jehovah, it atones for or cleanses the people’s guilt of sin, but if the blood is shed in the open field, within or outside the camp, then they “go a-whoring” after the evil spirits.
If Jehovah had indeed sent Jesus to the Earth so that he could atone for the sins of humanity, and if the Mosaic Law should be fulfilled, then Jesus would have had to be sacrificed before the tabernacle, and his blood sprinkled upon the altar. But Jesus suffered death outside the city (that is, the camp) in the “open field”, his blood was not sprinkled upon the altar and could therefore not reconcile (that is, atone for) sin. According to the law, Jehovah would have had to reject such an offering, according to the law it could only be regarded as an offering to the evil spirits (that is, devils).
Neither then can this serve as a valid foundation for the Doctrine of Atonement.
But neither was this doctrine conceived and born during the lifetime of Jesus! None of his contemporaries saw in him the perfect being who had been chosen by Jehovah as the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of mankind. To the priests and the scribes he was an apostate, a rebel, who had tried to gain control over the people by proclaiming a teaching that opposed the strict orthodox Jewish faith. The pronouncement of Jesus regarding the ambiguous nature of Jehovah (Toward the Light, page 36) led them to believe that he had been sent by “The Father of Lies” (that is, Satan). And since the masses throughout history have nearly always let themselves be enslaved by their religious leaders without any true and full understanding of the religious precepts, dogmas and rituals, it should cause no wonder that the masses were reluctant to follow Jesus, when their religious leaders condemned both him and his teachings. And so they continued to walk the familiar paths trodden by their forefathers under the leadership of the priesthood. And when it was rumored that the Council in Jerusalem demanded the life of Jesus because he called himself the “Son of God”, a storm of anger and bitterness arose against him. No one spoke in his favor, no one rose to his defense. Convicted as a wrongdoer, he was condemned to die on the cross; the Council condemned him, the priests condemned him, the people condemned him. And as a criminal he was led outside the city to suffer his penalty. Only his few friends, the apostles and some disciples, grieved over him and suffered with him. As an outcast—ridiculed—he died for the sake of his words.
His death on the cross was thus for Jesus the death of a lawbreaker. Never did the thought enter the minds of any of his followers that the moment his body died he had atoned for the sins of mankind by his blood!
How did the Doctrine of Atonement then arise?
When Paul, who had not known Jesus and who had persecuted the disciples, was converted into a fervent expounder of the teaching of Jesus, he continually pondered the matter of the Messiah and the mission of Jesus on Earth. After they met for the first time with Paul, the apostles felt no belief in the sincerity of his claim of conversion. They did not always recognize their beloved Master or his teaching in Paul’s proclamations, and they removed themselves from him. And Paul, who was not especially fond of Peter, would in his pride not consult the “high and mighty” apostles; and, left thus to his own speculations, he attempted, through what he had already heard and what he now learned from among the people, to form an impression of the character of Jesus. The few conversations he had with the apostles of Jesus over the years were of no real benefit to him, since these dealt mostly with the disputes that had arisen between the apostles and the followers of Paul over the conflicting teachings about Jesus and the different interpretations of his words and actions. The image Paul thus formed of Jesus was in many respects contrary to the facts. And although Paul had a tendency to stutter, in particular when he became agitated, as an orator he was far superior to the apostles, and far better than they was he able through well-formulated addresses, and later through his letters, to influence the people and impress upon them his interpretation. And during his many attempts to gain a clear understanding of the words and actions of Jesus and to reconcile them with the prophecies about the Messiah, the thought gradually matured in him that Jehovah had sent Jesus to the Earth so that through his death he could atone for the sins of mankind and in this way become an intermediary, an intercessor, between Jehovah and human beings. But Paul, who was a learned man and well versed in Jewish sacrificial acts, could clearly see that the death of Jesus outside the city could not be made to conform with the precepts for atonement offering in the Mosaic Law. He was not able, however, to relinquish his idea, and in the end he considered that justification for his assumption could be found in the resurrection of Jesus and in his conduct on taking leave of the apostles after the Last Supper.3
At the last hour of the meeting with his companions before his sentence, Jesus had offered them his bread and wine; what meaning could there have been in this act other than a symbolic reference to his imminent death, a death that he had been allotted in order to redeem the sins of all the world? With his body and his blood he was to institute a new act of reconciliation. Jehovah must certainly have given him the task of revoking the covenant that he had made through Moses with the children of Israel in the remote past, and on his behalf of entering into a new covenant that should become the redemption not only of the people of Israel, but of all the world.
But how should Paul explain that the apostles drank the wine that Jesus offered them, for the law forbade them to eat of blood? And they ate the bread that he gave them, but the law demanded that the flesh of the sin-offering should be burnt outside the camp!
And Paul pondered further upon his problem, for he was determined to understand Jehovah’s purpose in sending Jesus. He scrutinized the ancient books (the Pentateuch) of Moses and the words of the prophets concerning the Messiah, and from the Scriptures he gradually construed what he believed to be substantiation for his interpretation of the death of Jesus as an act of atonement.
When Jehovah bade Moses to build and furnish a tabernacle for him and enact laws for the various offerings and ceremonies, all this was merely a faint reflection of that which was true, of that which existed in Heaven with Jehovah. And the covenant which he had entered into with the people of Israel through Moses should only last for a certain time, until he sent One who was greater than Moses, greater than all the angels, and who for time eternal could bring an unblemished sacrifice into the true sanctuary, namely Heaven, which was the ideal for the earthly reproduction. In the fullness of time Jehovah sent his son, so that he should be sacrificed once and for all time, in place of the yearly offering, so that he should offer himself as an unblemished sacrifice for the sin of all the world. As a high priest he had entered the sanctuary to make his offering. As a high priest? But Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, and not of the tribe of Levi that carried the priestly lineage! Again, Paul had to find substantiation for his supposition. And he found it in the meeting of Abraham with King Melchizedec who was the priest of the highest God, “the possessor of Heaven and Earth.” (Genesis 14: 18-19). Melchizedec had been the high priest of Jehovah before Aaron and the Levites, and Jesus had now been chosen by the Most High to become high priest “after the order of Melchizedec” (Psalms 110) and would therefore be raised above the Levitic priesthood: for “his priesthood shall endure, because he is for all eternity.”
But in order for Jesus to bring himself as an offering, he had to enter a lower state and be incarnated in the flesh, in other words become as man, and his embodiment (the flesh) became the veil before the Holy of Holies (Heaven). By his death he transcended that veil and thereby made open the path to the true tabernacle, so that all might follow him. The death of Jesus is the destruction of the flesh, which in turn is the parting of the veil. And having brought himself as an offering once and for all time, he would at his resurrection be seated at the right hand of the throne of Jehovah, where he would serve for eternity as priest of the true tabernacle that was built by Jehovah and not by any human being.
As the chosen one, the anointed one, Jesus must have known of his mission, and he must have sought to reveal this symbolically to the apostles at his leave-taking with them: 1) when he gave them to drink of his wine (representing his blood), “for the life of the flesh is in the blood”; the soul of Jesus was in the blood (in other words, the wine), and by partaking of the wine it merged with the apostles’ souls (in other words, with their blood), whereby they were cleansed and sanctified; (“their hearts were cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”) — and 2) when he gave them of his bread (representing the body or the flesh), whose imminent destruction was symbolized by the parting of the veil before the Holy of Holies. But by partaking of the bread (representing Jesus’s body), the apostles became spiritually sanctified and worthy to enter the sanctum by the way that he opened for them through the destruction of his flesh (in other words, by the parting4 of the veil). And in his thoughts Paul conceived the words: “As Jesus gave his apostles of his bread and his wine, so he gave his body and his blood to his followers as spiritual food and drink; yea, he gave himself as a sacrifice for sin, a sign of a new covenant between the Lord and us.” 5 (See footnote, page 76, Toward the Light.) And in this context Paul believed that he could defend the partaking of the wine (that is, the blood) and of the bread (that is, the flesh or the body) if it were regarded as symbolic, as a spiritual declaration that the apostles, and with them all who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, were sanctified once and for all time by the sacrifice of the body and the blood of Jesus.
To see clearly the great inconsistencies between the ancient Jewish sacrificial customs under the Mosaic Law, the crucifixion of Jesus, and Paul’s interpretation of Jesus as the high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice, compare the following three statements:
The Jewish Sin Offering
The sacrificial animals should be chosen from among the “unblemished” (to which must correspond a sin-free human being). The animals should be led to the door of the tent and sacrificed before the tabernacle of the Lord, and the blood should be struck or sprinkled upon the altar. The high priest was of the tribe of Levi, the lineage of the priests. The high priest should perform the act of sin-offering. The blood of the animals should not be eaten, for the life of the flesh was in the blood. The flesh and bone of the sin-offering should be taken outside the camp and burned there.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
The Gospels show that Jesus was not free of sin; he cannot therefore be likened to the “unblemished” animals, whose blood should make atonement for sin. As a rebel against Jehovah he was led outside the city (that is, the camp) and was crucified in an “open field”. His blood was not sprinkled upon the altar and thus could not make atonement for sin. He was crucified by Roman soldiers. His body was not burned but entombed. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, not of Levi. The Jewish people regarded not the crucifixion of Jesus as a sin-offering.
The incarnation of Jesus as a human being is likened to the veil before the Holy of Holies. Jesus was chosen by God to be high priest after the order of Melchizedec. As high priest he entered the sanctuary and sacrificed himself once and for all time as an offering without blemish. The bodily death of Jesus is compared with the parting of the veil that opens the way to Heaven for all who by faith follow in his footsteps. At the leave-taking with the apostles he gave a symbolic representation of this when he offered them his wine (his blood) and his bread (his body), at the partaking of which the apostles became sanctified and thereby worthy of following him.
The approach Paul undertakes is therefore a complete spiritual re-interpretation of the facts. As a spirit without blemish—not as a human being free of sin—Jesus sacrifices himself for eternal redemption. It was in truth difficult for the Jews to accept this explanation, even though it was supported by quotations from, and references to, the ancient Scriptures. (See The Epistle to the Hebrews.)
Anyone can see that Paul’s interpretation completely disregards the ancient precepts for sacrifice. The death of Jesus would therefore have to be “a new covenant” between the Lord and the people. As another Moses, Paul thus instituted a covenant between Jehovah and humanity, a covenant not only for the people of Israel—but for all the world.
But as Jehovah had now sent his son to the Earth as a human being, so that through death of his own free will—in a spiritual sense—he could atone for the sins of mankind, why did Jesus himself not speak out clearly about his mission? Jehovah had earlier in the history of the Jewish people, for example through Moses, given clear and minutely detailed laws for the arrangement of his tabernacle, for the many different sacrificial acts and for many other things, and it should therefore have been easy for him through Jesus—the son who was greater than Moses—indeed, greater than all the angels—to give the people an explicit explanation of the reason for his mission. And especially in a case that was of such fundamental importance for all mankind would it appear to be of the utmost importance to Jehovah that human beings be given to understand: that the death of Jesus on the cross was an offering of atonement that for all eternity should replace the ancient sacrifices. And if Jehovah had not been able to provide clear and sufficient knowledge of this mission through Jesus, why did he not select one of the apostles to do this? Would not the apostles, who had known Jesus, had heard his words and followed him, would not they be the obvious ones to explain the mission of Jesus? Why did Jehovah choose someone who had no direct knowledge of Jesus and of his teaching? Why should it not be revealed to humanity until by pure chance someone thought of solving this dark mystery?
If this is considered more closely, the question will soon arise: was not Paul the self-appointed interpreter of the death of Jesus? And was not also he who gave the ancient laws for offerings in the name of Jehovah, equally self-appointed? In other words: that for which these two men were the spokesmen did not originate with the highest Divinity, did not come from Him who possesses Heaven and Earth.
To enable us to approach this question we must first make a study of who Jehovah was, and next examine whether this Jehovah was, and is, identical with the true, the one, the living God.
The answer to this question must be found in the Old Testament.
Jehovah was the god of the Jews, and, unlike the neighboring pagan tribes, the people of Israel had only one god. In religious respect the Jewish people should therefore have been on a higher level than the peoples who worshipped many gods; but the deity that confronts us in the Jewish tradition is merely human in his conduct and in his feelings. He appears before us as a human prince, or a human king. His laws are manifestations of human thought, the ceremonies he demands spring from human ideas of the exalted. He is amiable, he is angered, he grants generous gifts (spoils of war), he chooses his own people, he bids his people wage war on neighboring tribes and destroy them, he delivers their enemies into the hands of his own people, and so forth. And when his people turn to other gods, when they fail to pay him due homage, then in fury he regrets the good that he has done; he hardens the hearts of the people and wreaks deadly vengeance on the recalcitrant and disobedient.
This Jehovah clearly demonstrates the spiritual level of the Jewish people at the time these views and conceptions of the divinity prevailed. Their conception of God reached not beyond the purely human. Their god was merely a reflected image of mankind, and we meet this human-like being everywhere in the ancient Scriptures. Nevertheless, a higher being can also be fleetingly discerned behind Jehovah. In many passages can be glimpsed a more perfected Divinity standing out in decided contrast to Jehovah.
Let us consider some examples that can make clear the difference and contrast between these divinities. He who says: “Thou shalt not kill” is not identical with him who says: “I will deliver thine enemy into thine hands”. He who says: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?. . .I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. . . yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood”, he is not the same as he who craves blood sacrifice, “sweet savours” and ceremonies. He of whom it is said: “. . .and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” is not identical to Him of whom it is said: “But you, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, and governing all with mercy. . .and to know your might is the root of immortality.” He of whom it is said: “. . . but in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee” is not identical with Him of whom it is said: “. . .wisdom and might are His: . . .He revealeth the deep and secret things: He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.”
From the ancient Scriptures thus emerge various different divinities under the name of “Jehovah” or “God”. But the accounts that bear witness to a divinity transcending the nature of human beings reveal the true, the exalted God.
Can the fickle, wrathful Jehovah, who demands ceremonial worship and blood sacrifice, have sent Jesus so that by his sacrifice he might supersede the ancient rites of sin-offering? It could possibly be so, but then it must be examined whether this act makes Jehovah greater, whether it elevates him above that which is human, and thereby brings him into harmony with the higher divinity, the hidden God, who can be discerned behind him.
The foregoing considerations have shown that the concept of the death of atonement of Jesus is indefensible when compared with the act of sin-offering under Mosaic Law, and that Jehovah, according to the law, would be bound to reject such a sacrifice. It must therefore be Paul’s interpretation that rewrites the death of Jesus to express a spiritual point of view—and thus apparently elevates the act of sacrifice to a higher plane—which must form the basis for further investigation. But in order for full justice to be done it is necessary to draw a parallel from earthly, human life, otherwise it cannot be seen whether Jehovah has become greater, whether he is superior to human beings in his action.
A father has many children; among these is a son—but only one—who in his nature is a perfect expression of a loving, self-sacrificing, obedient and diligent son; all the other children are more or less ill-behaved: irresponsible, disobedient, indolent, unruly, always quarrelsome, forever in disagreement. Their father has attempted in many ways to guide his children, to make peace among them, to teach them diligence and obedience. But nothing has availed—they will not hear and thus do not follow his guidance. The father then summons the loving and obedient son and says: “Behold, you alone of all my children conduct yourself befittingly, and therefore you are my dearest son; but your brothers and sisters are ill-behaved and they heed not my counsel and my admonitions. Nothing will make them mend their ways. But now I shall give you all the beatings that your brothers and sisters should have, and which they so richly deserve. I shall temper justice with mercy and chastise you, and the humility with which you take the place of your brothers and sisters and receive their punishment will certainly improve them; for they will rejoice in escaping punishment, they will love you and seek to follow in your footsteps; and through the punishment that I inflict upon you, who are without guilt in their transgressions, I shall find satisfaction for my anger against them.”
Would such a paternal action reform the other children? Would any son of man, be he the best, the most loving of sons, submit to his father’s wish and in their stead suffer the punishment of his brothers and sisters? And what would other people—fathers and mothers—say when they heard of this father who attempted to reform his children in this way?
But should this father take a further step and bid his loving and dutiful son to forfeit his life for the transgressions of the other children, and if the son in his love for his father and for his sisters and brothers had of his own free will submitted to this, and given his life in order to atone for the sins of his brothers and sisters—what would the reaction then be? What would other fathers and mothers say or do? Would not such an action awaken their indignation and abhorrence for so unnatural a father? Would they not forthwith make him powerless by divesting him of his parental authority? No human beings would tolerate such a father in their community, not a single one would hold him in esteem, nor give him thanks.
Thus, no civilized human beings would condone such an action if it took place within their midst!
But such is the act attributed to Jehovah. And even though the interpretation by Paul must be understood from a spiritual point of view, the crucifixion of Jesus remains a reality that cannot be explained away. Whether it should be regarded from an earthly or from a spiritual point of view, the crucifixion has taken place. If Paul’s interpretation is to form the basis for an understanding of the mission of Jesus, then the manner of his death must have been preordained by Jehovah and sanctioned by Jesus before he entered the flesh, that is, before he became human. What no earthly father and son would embark upon, human beings attribute to their divinity as a matter of course!
Thus, if Jehovah did send Jesus so that he could offer himself as a sacrifice of atonement on behalf of mankind, then Jehovah has through this action become inferior to the Jehovah of the Mosaic Law. For at the time when the Mosaic Laws came into being, he demanded only offerings of animals to forgive the sins and transgressions of human beings; but when he sent Jesus, he demanded a human life! Truly, a divinity who acts in this way is far inferior to a human being, and is in no manner worthy of the veneration, trust or love of human beings.
Jehovah could therefore not have sent Jesus to institute this “new covenant”.
But if it was not Jehovah, who then? For it is inconceivable that he could be the exalted Divinity who now and then reveals Himself in the ancient scriptures, even though He is overshadowed by the human-like Jehovah. There can be no doubt whatsoever that a being who is far superior to Jehovah would be incapable of committing an act that even places Jehovah below the human level. And it is easy to see that it is not this “hidden” Divinity who sent Jesus as an offering of atonement, for He says: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? . . .I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. . . yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood!” And He says: “Thou shalt not kill!” This Divinity, who is a far better expression of the true, the living God, and who by far transcends Jehovah—a figment of the human imagination—would never act against His own Being of truth, purity and justice. He does not first say to the people: “Thou shalt not kill!” and then sends them His beloved son with the bidding that he should voluntarily deliver himself to be killed!
But since the Scriptures indicate that Moses speaks in the name of a human-like god, must he not seem to posterity to be a self-appointed institutor of covenants and laws? For could any spiritually mature human being truly and in trust look up to, love and worship a divinity whose nature is no more than human, and whose thoughts and actions are far inferior to those of many a human being? Should one not conclude from the existing accounts of this Jehovah that he is no more than an expression of the highest concept of a divine being that was held by the Jewish people of that time? And Moses, who evokes this imaginary god for the children of Israel, must therefore have acted upon his own absolute authority—for he speaks not in the name of the true, the living God!
And Paul—who speaks as the emissary of a divinity who by his action in sending his beloved son to human beings to be an atonement offering for their sins has shown himself to be inferior to Jehovah, inferior to a human being—is he not a self-appointed interpreter of the mission and death of Jesus, and is he not likewise a self-appointed founder of a “new covenant”? Like Moses, he acts on his own authority—for he speaks not in the name of the true God!
On the other hand one cannot doubt that a deity must have sent Jesus to mankind, for the words of his teaching handed down to posterity through the Gospels bear witness to the fact that he had a mission to perform. But even though his teachings, as found in the Gospels, are imperfect on many points and have in many places been distorted and marred by the fabricated attempts of later times to make them conform to the interpretations of Paul, or to form a basis for the assertion of the divinity of Jesus, Jesus’s own words are nevertheless in much greater harmony with the Divinity that also he discerns behind the figure of Jehovah. But Jesus’s words impart greater knowledge of, and they better express, the “hidden” God; for he teaches human beings that in Him they have a loving, an understanding Father, teaches them that prayer to Him must not be mere empty words but must spring from the heart; he teaches them that the first and the last commandment is: love for God, love for your neighbor; he shows mankind that they who do their Father’s will are one with Him. His teaching is far simpler, much more beautiful than that of the ancient Jewish faith; for he does not in the name of his God and Father demand ceremonies and sacrifices6 to please the Lord, or so that those offering sacrifice may in that way obtain forgiveness for their sins.
But when we have seen that the teaching of Jesus was far superior to that which before his time had formed mankind’s most exalted concept of the Originator and the Lord of Heaven and Earth, we should be able to conclude that in all probability Jesus must have been an emissary and spokesman for the hidden, the still unknown God. But if we have reached this far in our understanding of the mission of Jesus, we should also be able to understand fully that this loving God and Father sent not His son to Earth so that in human form he could present himself as a sin offering for all the world! Indeed, all should be able to understand that a divine Being, perfect in every way, Who is raised high, infinitely high above all that is human, so high that no human thought can comprehend His profound love and boundless compassion, indeed, so high that no human words can express the sublimity and purity of His Being, could not act against Himself, against His own laws, and that in truth He did not send Jesus as a sin offering—neither in one way or in any other!
What then was the purpose of Jesus’s mission?
Jesus was sent to Earth to teach human beings to love the true God with all their heart, soul and mind, and to love their neighbor as they love themselves; he was sent to Earth to teach mankind to live in peace and mutual toleration; he was sent to Earth to liberate the Jewish people from the leaden bondage of Mosaic Law; and he was sent to Earth in order as a human being, and if this were possible, to conceive compassion in his loving heart for the spirit of Darkness called Satan by human beings, and by virtue of his compassion to pray for Satan’s deliverance from the power of sin and Darkness.
It was the mission of Jesus, it was his ministry as the Messiah, to teach human beings of the nature of God as the Father, and through his prayer of compassion and love to break the power of Darkness over the fallen brother, to overcome his defiant mind, the hatred in his heart, and to deliver him to the Father’s Home, and in this way remove the obstacle that for countless ages had blocked the road which leads to an understanding of God as the loving, the lenient and the compassionate Father, whose exalted nature, purity and perfection cannot be expressed in human words nor formed by human thought.
Jesus was not able to pray7 for the Prince and Servant of Darkness, and so for this reason neither did he fully succeed in completing his mission. His fallen brother fought him. And the people understood him not! In their blind hatred of him who spoke against the old traditions, and in their folly of refusing to be taught anything new, they scorned, mocked and condemned him who sought to bring them nearer to their God and Father, who sought to teach them how to better themselves, to be more loving and to be less quarrelsome. And he was condemned to die upon the cross as a lawbreaker! The Council condemned him, the priests condemned him—the people condemned him!
Human beings themselves delivered him to die!
Human beings themselves delivered him to death! And when one is guilty of a wicked and unjust act, one normally seeks by every possible means to embellish it so as to make it appear less offensive! But no matter how much it is adorned and disguised, the act itself becomes neither more glorious nor more exalted. It is better by far to face the truth, to acknowledge the errors and evil deeds and to seek through grief and repentance to make amends, so that the act is not repeated.
Human beings wronged Jesus, and after his death, when they began to understand what precious teaching he had given them, they washed their hands of the evil deed and placed the guilt upon God, their Father, in whose name Jesus had spoken! And where the contemporaries of Jesus ceased,8 the succeeding generations continued to disguise and adorn the evil deed with more and more embellishment. And all this adornment, all this seemingly beautiful embellishment, has in the course of time led to endless strife and violence!
In the centuries that followed the crucifixion of Jesus, the leaders, the theologians and authorities of the Christian congregations, built what they themselves believed to be a great and glorious House of the Church. But they failed to take into consideration the spiritual development to which every human being is subject. More and more voices are raised against the House, more and more hands seek to remove the concealing adornments, or to dislodge the stones of which it is built.
The House is leaning! Further embellishment or bracing is impossible; for the House is built upon the sand—and the sand is shifting!
What can be done to arrest its fall?
Nothing! The House is doomed, sooner or later it will fall!
Would it not then be far better, far more worthy, if the leaders of the Christian congregations—the clergy and the scholars—joined together in united action, convened the members of their congregations and informed them of the imminent fall of the House of the Church? To err is human, and those who acknowledge error can attain forgiveness, but they who seek to conceal the error when it is discovered, must bear the heavy burden of responsibility!
The true God of human beings, the Father of their spirit, has sent His earthly children a Message. Through His emissaries He has shown them that the House of their Church is doomed to fall; He has called upon the authorities of the Church, He has called upon all His children! Indeed, He has not only called, He has also built them a new, a greater and a much more splendid Tabernacle, in which He has taken His abode. The doors of His Tabernacle stand open, and He bids all welcome in His dwelling.
But the road thereto remains hidden to the blind, it is concealed from those who have not yet forgiven the brother who fell at the dawn of time, and who is now returned to our Father’s Home, where he awaits the forgiveness of mankind.
When the leaders and the authorities of the Christian congregations have let the tears of compassion melt the ice in their hearts, when they have fully and wholly forgiven him—then will the veil fall from their eyes, then will they become seeing. And those who have become seeing will make haste to lead their congregations away from the tottering House and into the House of God.
But if the congregations themselves begin to depart, begin to take distance from the teaching of the Church, then the leaders will in the end remain there alone. For they who have found the way to our Father’s own Tabernacle will never return, lest they be crushed under the falling House, and they will rejoice in having found a place of rest, a Sanctuary. For the rains will fall, the floods will come, and the winds will blow and beat upon that House, and it will fall, and great will be the fall of it!—For the House is built upon the sand, and the sand is shifting!
“I, who once lived among human beings as Saul of Tarsus, have lately returned home from a new earthly life among you. Upon my return our Father bade me remove the cornerstone from under the House that you, the human beings, have built upon my presumptuous interpretation of the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
“Still weak after the life recently ended, I asked our Father for help in carrying out this task, and some of my brothers accompanied me to the human being who acts as an intermediary between us and you. With the help of my brothers—for they have strengthened and clarified my thoughts—I have now fulfilled the mission entrusted me by our Father.
“May you become seeing and follow my words! But one thing you should know: that which I did in the past, I did because I loved Jesus of Nazareth from the depth of my heart. I would make him greater than he was. Pray forgive me, for I acted out of love”
“But you who love our brother as I do, heed my words and hasten to make good both mine and your own transgressions that our Father’s Message may bear rich fruit. Our Father will thank you, our brother will thank you, and I, who once was Saul of Tarsus, will thank you with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul!”
1) Leviticus 17: 1 1-12 is a later addition to the preceding verse, inserted by a scholar and scribe to explain further why the blood must be struck or sprinkled upon the altar.
2) This incident is not described exactly as it happened, and therefore appears more belittling of the conduct of Jesus than it really was. When Jesus found no fruit he uttered an exclamation more or less equivalent to "To blazes with you!" And the tree of course did not wither.
The explanation of this odd curse in Mark 11: 20-25—one must "have faith in God"—actually casts an aspersion on Jesus rather than excusing and explaining his conduct. Had Jesus shown "faith" he should have prayed to God to bring forth fruit upon the tree instead of cursing it and making it wither. However, neither is possible. A curse will not cause any tree to wither, nor a prayer cause fruit to appear on a barren tree.
3) At the Last Supper, Jesus poured the wine not only into the chalice but into his own cup and the cups of the apostles. As wayfarers, they nearly always had a cup with them, fastened to the belt with a strap. At mealtime they unstrapped their cups and filled them with water from the well of the house, or with wine if available. They placed their cups before them upon the table where they ate. Although there was normally only a communal cup in use at Jewish meals, the contemporaries of Jesus were strongly influenced by Roman and Greek customs so that in many homes there was more than a single cup on the table at meal times and sometimes even Phoenician glass tumblers. At the leave-taking with the apostles, after the meal had proceeded in accordance with Jewish ritual, Jesus took his own cup of wine (not the chalice), tasted it, and offered it to the apostles. (See also Toward the Light page 60).
4) This manner of thinking can be found in the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews, as Paul himself expounded the death of Jesus and defended this interpretation in an address he gave at a meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem, where he and Barnabas should explain their views on the law of circumcision and the laws of sacrifice.
The Epistle to the Hebrews consists of fragments of this address, given in Aramaic. It was put in writing by some of those present, and various versions both in Aramaic and Greek circulated later in the many congregations, mostly in those of Paul, but also in the Judeo-Christian congregations.
5) Paul gave this, his own explanation of the mission and death of Jesus, to his disciples. Over time, the words were distorted somewhat and in their modified form were included in the Gospels as if Jesus had himself pronounced them at the Last Supper. That these words originate with Paul, however, and not with Jesus is clearly shown in 1 Corinthians 11: 23, where Paul says: "For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread." If Jesus had used these words at the leave-taking, Paul would have said: "For I have received the words from the Lord's apostles, who, as you know, were present at the supper." But he expressly says: "for I received from the Lord". Paul never tried to conceal his belief that these thoughts stemmed directly from the Lord (Galatians 1: 11-12) and that he therefore did not "build upon another man's foundation" (Romans 15: 2 0). (In Toward the Light it is shown who did in fact inspire Paul's thoughts, and who thereby became the true originator of the doctrine of Jesus's death of atonement.)
6) In Toward the Light (page 36) it is related that Jesus personally kept at a distance from the Jewish offerings. Although these were against his innermost nature, he did always take part in the Feast of the Passover—commemorating the liberation from Egypt—and thus also celebrated the first sacrifices under the aegis of Moses. (The blood of the lambs was struck on the door-posts as a sign to the angel of the Lord).
7) The mission of Jesus among the people is explained in detail in Toward the Light.
8) After the meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem at which Paul rendered a detailed account of his conception of Jesus—a conception conflicting sharply with that of the apostles—his teachings about Jesus gained widening acceptance. The apostles, uneducated, though they did understand some Greek, could express themselves only in Aramaic and were not as eloquent as Paul. Thus they were not able to lead the teachings of Jesus in the right direction; and Paul's teaching therefore prevailed and spread far and wide. Not all the letters bearing Paul's name, included in the New Testament, can be attributed to him. Some were written by his disciples. They generally consist of fragments of Paul's discourses, interspersed with the disciples' own words and a few words of the apostles. The letters bearing the names of the apostles have no further connection with them, except for a few of their words intermingled with fragments of Paul's speeches; the writers of these letters were disciples of Paul's apostles. The apostles themselves did not know how to write.
If we examine the New Testament separately it becomes apparent that the three Synoptic Gospels bear the stamp of the spirit of Jesus and of the apostles, interspersed here and there with a few words by Paul, whereas the letters are predominantly marked by the spirit of Paul, interspersed with a few words by the apostles. The so-called Gospel of John stands entirely apart from the others. (Concerning its origin see Toward the Light, page 234).