The Jesus before Christianity


“There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity. He was a much better Jesus than the one Christianity produced.

Jesus’s Hebrew or Aramaic name was “Yeshua.” The name “Jesus” originates from the Latin translation of the Greek name Iēsous, which comes from the Hebrew “Yeshua.” The English equivalent would be “Joshua.” So we could just as easily call Jesus “Joshua.” So let’s do that.

As far as titles go, which were common at that time, Joshua preferred to be called “son of man” or “son of Adam,” which has the same meaning. Jesus’ name could have easily been known to us as, Joshua ben Adam. But instead, “Christ” (from the Greek word, Christós, meaning “anointed”) is a translation of the Hebrew word Māšîaḥ, and became used as a messianic title for Jesus. The title was chosen by his followers and written into the New Testament.

God is spirit and takes on human expression in people. Joshua ben Adam taught that all people must relate to God in the spirit of his name. Think of this in light of the name Joshua ben Adam. The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones. In other words, relating to God in the name of Joshua ben Adam means we come to God in solidarity with all humankind. This was the way of Joshua. He once taught that if one comes to worship God with a sacrifice but discovers he is in conflict with his neighbor that he should leave his sacrifice at the altar and go make amends. On another occasion, Joshua challenged people to extend this line of solidarity to include even one’s “enemy.” He equated service to God as caring for the lowliest and least among them, and spoke of loving God and loving others as two sides of the same coin.

One can only relate to God in the name and spirit of Joshua ben Adam because God is inseparable from people. There is no “us” and “them.” Joshua ben Adam would reject any religion that advocates hatred, violence, and division against others. He once said that merely speaking a term of diminishment against another is a violation of his way. It is not possible to hurt or neglect any human being without hurting or neglecting God.

Religion often implies that one meets God atop a mountain or in a temple. Still today, people often refer to a church building as the “House of God.” But Joshua ben Adam taught that we meet God in one another.”

– Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge

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