Did Jesus accept the Jewish god?
By M.S.N. Menon
No, but this has remained a well-kept secret to this day!
Jesus, an advocate of ahimsa, could never have accepted the violence and
cruelty of Yahweh, the god of the Jews. He ridiculed the idea of punishing god.
Karen Armstrong, in her book The History of God, says of the Jewish god: “This
is a brutal, partial and murderous god, a god of war. He has little compassion
for anyone but the Jews. He is simply a tribal deity.”
Had it not been for St. Paul, it is said, the Christian community would have
remained a mere Jewish sect. But Paul, an eminent Greek scholar, was above to
propagate the Christian faith in the Greek and Roman empires.
The Christians could not explain their religion to the Romans, for Christianity
was neither a religion in the Roman sense nor a philosophy. Now wonder, there
were few takers for Christianity in Rome except the slaves. The Roman
aristocracy spurned it. The Roman emperors suppressed it.
But violence was natural to the people of the region. They had a saying: “An
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!” Jesus rejected it.
Even the Greek gods were sanguinary and violent and often deceitful, jealous,
vindictive and dissolute. But the Jewish god was the most notorious among gods
of violence and cruelty. Even Baal, the Cannanite god, was a shade less cruel.
To the Romans, Christianity was a barbarous creed. They saw Yahweh as a
ferocious, primitive deity, who interfered in human affairs in an irrational
There is the story of one Marcion (100 AD-165AD), who set up a rival church in
Rome. He collected a huge following. He asked: how could a good god create a
world manifestly full of evil and pain? Marcion was appalled by the history of
Yahweh and his cruelty.
What is more, Jesus had revealed that another god existed. He had not been
mentioned in Jewish scriptures. The other god—the god of Jesus—was simply
gentle and good, merciful and forgiving.
People wanted to turn away from the world of Yahweh and the Old Testament to
the world of Jesus, but this was denied by the church.
The popularity of Marcion showed that had touched upon a common anxiety. At one
time, it seemed as if he was going to found a new church.
The people of Rome did not know what to make of the Jewish god. Indeed, most
people in the Greeco-Roman empire found this Biblical deity unworthy of
Thus, again in 170 AD, the Pagan philosopher Celsus condemned the concept of
“chosen people” and the proprietorial way in which the Christians saw their
god. He tells them that god is universal—i.e. god is of all men.
By the 2ndc AD, some cultured Pagans were able to adapt Yahweh to the
Greeco-Roman ideals. Thus Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), who had perhaps
his education in Athens, created a “quite” god.
Then, how did Yahweh survive in Christianity? Because Constantine, the Roman
emperor, got himself converted to Christianity (he believed that Yahweh was
responsible for his victory in a war) and made Christianity the religion of the
Roman empire. With that all opposition died down. Under the Holy Roman Empire,
criticism of Christianity became felony. It could even invite the punishment of
Not this alone. In the face of the Islamic onslaught on the Christian world
from the 6th c onwards, the Christians were forced to close ranks. With that
Europe truly entered the Dark Ages. I am reminded here of a similar experience
in India. In the face of the Islamic onslaught, says Nehru, India withdrew into
a shell. For nearly a thousand years, both Europe and Indian remained in the
A thousand years lapsed before Christians began to talk again of the atrocities
of the purgatory and hell, presided over by Yahweh (Jehovah).
After the Age of Reason and the Renaissance, religion was almost out of
fashion. But it came back to Europe because political tyrants were in need of
the unscrupulous priests.
Throughout the Christian world, there is a quiet revolution taking place—a
revolution that seeks to marginalise the Jewish god—and to place Jesus and his
doctrines at the centre of Christian life. This is welcome. Then what becomes
of the Ten Commandments? “They are mere lumber,” says George Bernard Shaw.
Karen Armstrong says even atheism is better than having the Jewish god. “A god
who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd,” she says. She goes on: “A god
who interferes with human freedom and creativity was a tyrant…An atheism that
rejects such a god is amply justified,” she says.
The New Age movement in America rejects the Jewish god. It believes, like Adi
Shankara, in Monism—in a god without form. The problem is: the Christian faith
has to be lived. But can the rampant consumerist society of the West live the
Christian life? This is the crux of the Christian predicament.