Monday, November 19, 2007

The Flawed Priesthood

“First, you must learn that the entire law contained in the Pentateuch of Moses was not ordained by one legislator, I mean, not by god alone; some commandments are Moses’, and some were given by men. The words of the savior teach us this triple division. The first part must be attributed to god himself and his legislating, the second to Moses – not in the sense that god legislates through him, but in the sense that Moses gave some legislation under the influence of his own ideas – and the third to the elders of the people, who seem to have ordained some commandments of their own at the beginning. You will now learn how the truth of this theory is proved by the words of the savior.
“In some discussion with those who disputed with the savior about divorce, which was permitted in the law, he said, “Because of your hardheartedness Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife; from the beginning it was not so; for god made this marriage, and what the lord joined together man must not separate.” [Matthew 19:8, 6] In this way he shows that there is a law of god which prohibits the divorce of a wife from her husband, and another law, that of Moses, which permits the breaking of this yoke because of hardheartedness. In fact, Moses lays down legislation contrary to that of god…therefore it is indisputable that here the law of Moses is different from the law of god, even if we have demonstrated the fact from only one example.
“The savior also makes plain the fact that some traditions of the elders are interwoven with the law. “For god said”, he states, ‘“Honor you father and you mother, that it may be well with you.’ But you have declared,” he says, addressing the elders, “that what help you might have received from me is a gift to god; and you have nullified the law of god through the tradition of your elders.” “
[Matthew 15:4-9]
The Gnostic Bible, Letter to Flora, pg. 302-303. This except is from Ptolemy, a disciple Valentinos, who apparently succeeded him after 160 AD. This letter was written sometime during the 3rd century.

This letter clearly states (as does Jesus Himself in Matthew 19:8) that Moses’ law (Mosaic Law), at least to some degree, was corrupted and contrary to God’s will. Could it actually be possible, as discussed in the previous chapter, that Moses was truly a nationalist? If he was willing to contradict God’s will and law (because of man’s hardheartedness) what is to say he didn’t go further? Is there any evidence of this? Could Moses (like so many rogue nations and terrorists today) have used God as his excuse and reason for invasion and genocide? (See throughout the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.)

This does not necessarily make Moses guilty, but it does however throw a shadow of doubt upon him. Couple this with Moses’ condemnation of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1) and then his commissioning of the Bronze Snake (Numbers 21:8-9) makes him out to seem like a hypocrite. Does or does not the 2nd Commandment say, “Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish” (Exodus 20:4). It is the bronze snake idol, Nehushta, [The Bronze Snake, Nehushtan, remained an idol to the Israelites up until King Hezekiah of Judah had it destroyed along with other religions’ altars and idols, nearly 800 years later. (See 2 Kings 18:4)], that is the damning evidence against Moses. If Moses had commissioned it then we could say that he was human, that he made a mistake. After all, isn’t that why we were given the Ten Commandments? Because we are prone to make mistakes? But Moses says that it was God who told him to do it. And what about his brother Aaron? What about the very origin of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood?

The verses from Isaiah 1:11-17 are an incredibly harsh statements which seem to completely undermine Moses’ teachings. It is important to note that this vision of the prophet Isaiah occurred during the reign of - amongst others – King Hezekiah, who broke Moses’ bronze snake Nehushtan.

“He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
2 Kings 18:4b (NIV)

This clearly states that the Israelites burnt incense to it (in worship) and that wasn’t its purpose or intent. It also states this was always done. This very strongly suggests that this was not a tradition that became corrupt, but was corrupt from its inception. However, even if we entertain the idea that Moses originally make the bronze snake for some other legitimate purpose and it became corrupt in time, we need to look at the second commandment:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
Exodus 20:4 (NIV)

The question hangs on the definition of “idol”. This verse does not mean that we cannot even make a statue of an animal or other creature. It states that we cannot make an idol of an animal or creature. I believe Moses’ bronze snake, Nehushtan was indeed an idol. The fact that he put it on a pole is disturbingly suggestive of the Asherah poles which were repeatedly torn down and destroyed in the Old Testament.

If we jump ahead of Moses’ time to that of Jesus Christ’s we know that worship and the Temple and the Pharisees was corrupt. But what was Jesus’ view on this?

”According to John Jesus went to Jerusalem five times and did so on feasts that attracted pilgrim: three Passovers (John 2:13, 23; 6:4, 11:25, 12:1), once for the feast of Tabernacles (7:2), and once for an un-named feast (5:1). This would seem to show great zeal for the Temple, but in reality it does not represent even a minimum. Every man – and to this day that means every male Jew from the completion of this thirteenth year – was bound to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem three time a year: at Passover, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Tabernacles (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Deut. 16:16; “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God…They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed”) Jesus does not seem to have kept to this commandments: at all events his doing so is not mentioned in the Gospels…It is nowhere said that Jesus took part in these rites, and never that he took part in a Temple service of worship …Nor do we know what his attitude to the Passover was. Biblical experts argue over whether his last supper was a Passover meal or a simple farewell meal. The latter would seem to be probable.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 50-51.

It seems highly questionable whether Jesus actually practiced Jewish law and Jewish worship. Although most people will freely tell you that, yes, Jesus was Jewish, I’m not too sure that is as correct as it could be. It would most definitely be wrong to say that Jesus was not Jewish, but I think it would be much more accurate to say that Jesus was a Jewish heretic.

”Jesus’ threats of the imminent destruction of the Temple…When Jesus announces that he will rebuild the Temple in three days, this can only mean the absolute end of the Jerusalem Temple and of any earthly temple at all, and indeed not just of the Temple as a building but of it as it functioned in the way Jesus had experienced it … “not made with hands” (Mark 14:58): it was of another order of being.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 52.

This clearly shows that Jesus was against the Temple as a physical location and place of worship. God is to no longer “live on a building” but within the hearts of man.

”…driving the traders out of the Temple…the expulsion of those selling animals and the action against the money-changers. That can only have been directed against the Temple practice of sacrifice …If Jesus drives out those buying and selling animals and overturns the tables of the money-changers – all of which was necessary for the conduct of sacrifices – then he makes the whole traditional ritual of sacrifice impossible, he proclaims it to be over and done with …One should indeed bear in mind “that the Temple ritual was genuinely for Israel a heavenly gift through which God wished to save his people from the consequences of their sins and trespasses …When Jesus started driving the traders and buyers out of the Temple and when he overturned the tables of the money-changers and of the pigeon-sellers, than he was offending against the only thing that could secure the continued existence of the people of God.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 52.

This summons up Jesus’ views on animal sacrifice. He was against it. Old Testament scripture backs up this view as well:

"The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
Isaiah 1:11-17

So what part of Jewish law did He follow? These two facts seem to suggest that the whole idea of animal or blood sacrifices were wrong. God never wanted animal sacrifices. Isaiah’s message (prophesy) was to the Israelites who were not following God’s way. Yet previous Mosaic Law demands animal sacrifices. Once again we find these two seemingly different Gods: that of the Old Testament and that of the New. Was the concept of animal sacrifice a product of a old and corrupt (Mosaic) system?
There is evidence that the first Temple of Jerusalem was pagan and very likely polytheistic!

”When King Solomon built a Temple for Yahweh in Jerusalem, the city that his father, David, had captured from the Jebusites, it was similar to the temples of the Canaanite gods… Inside the Temple was a huge bronze basin, representing Yam, the primeval sea of Canaaite myth, and two forty-foot freestanding pillars, indicating the fertility cult of Asherah… The Temple soon became special, however, even though…there were some remarkably unorthodox activities there too. The Israelites began to see the Temple as a replica of Yahweh’s heavenly court. They had their own New Year Festival in the autumn, beginning with the scapegoat ceremony on the Day of Atonement, followed five days later by the harvest festival of the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the beginning of the agricultural year. It has been suggested that some of the psalms celebrated the enthronement of Yahweh in his Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles, which, like the enthronement of Marduk, re-enacted his primal subjugation of chaos.”
Karen Armstrong, A History of God, pg. 25

Add to this the facts that Solomon’s many wives were themselves active pagans and that Solomon was tolerant and friendly with pagans and their worship, would seem to very strongly suggest Temple worship (and other activities such as animal sacrifices) had veered off on a tangent.

It is obvious that Jesus did not agree with their practices, be they worship, the Temple, sacrifice, or definitely the priesthood (most especially the Pharisees). It needed to be corrected; it needed to be changed! And this point is clearly stated in Mark 2:22,

”And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins".

Is Jesus telling us that the time of God (the old wine) “living in the Temple” (the old wineskins) is over and now a “new” God (Himself) will live in the hearts of men (the new wineskin)? Or is He meaning something else? He is clearly saying that the old way (of the Temple, the priesthood, worship, and sacrifice) cannot continue.

When we collect these points I believe we can safely state that something was most definitely wrong with worship, the priesthood, and man’s (Israel’s) relationship with God. The question is, how far back does it go? When did this corruption begin? Judaism in Jesus’ time had strayed off course. Jewish worship, its priesthood, the idea and apparent need for sacrifice, and the central and predominant place of the Temple had become corrupt. All these rituals, laws, and traditions originate with Moses and the establishment of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood.

Did the origin of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood and Moses begin correctly and “on track” and according to God’s will and plan, and at some later point become “de-railed” and corrupt? Or was it wrong and mistaken from it’s conception? This is the pivotal point! When we look back at Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora and Jesus’ discussion about divorce in Matthew 19:8, it becomes likely that this error and corruption was present from it’s conception.

The Order of Melchizedek

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
John 8: 39-41 (NIV)

Jesus says that if they were Abraham’s children, then they would do the things Abraham did. What did Abraham do? He did a lot of things. What is Jesus talking about?! Jesus then says, As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. If we answer the question, What did Abraham do, by reversing the second statement (making the negative into a positive) we find that what Abraham did was “Not be determined to kill me (Jesus?)”, or possibly “Show me (Jesus?) respect”, and “Listen to the truth he heard from God”. So from the Book of Genesis, when did Abraham meet and pay respect to Jesus and when did Abraham listen to the truth from God? Although Abraham never did meet or pay respect to Jesus he did meet and pay respect to the King of Jerusalem.

“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem [Jerusalem] brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator (or Possessor) of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”
Genesis 14:17-19 (NIV)

So what Abraham did, to answer the question, was to pay honor and respect to Melchizedek. I believe this is what Jesus was talking about in John 8:39-41, especially when he says ‘”I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”’ (John 8:58). But why was that so important and can this reasonably be transferred to Jesus? I also believe it most definitely can be because of the following verses:

”You [Jesus Christ] are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110: 4b (NIV)

”This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace”. Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
Hebrews 7:1-3 (NIV)

Melchizedek is an extremely interesting biblical figure. He is probably the most enigmatic character in the Bible! Who was he? Who was he priest of?

The most interesting point I find with Melchizedek is that he significantly predates the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood. Melchizedek was king (of Salem) and High Priest of the “God Most High”, but what did that mean? Moses, Aaron, the Aaronic priesthood, the Levi’s, Israel, none of them would exist for nearly another three and a half centuries! What was he High Priest of? What did it mean to be a priest? Who did he lead in worship? What did it mean to worship without any known Laws? From what little we know, (between the brief encounter and worship between Abraham and Melchizedek) there was no sacrifice performed or needed. Jesus Christ is “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”, yet Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi (and therefore could not be a Jewish priest). Combined with the apparent corruption of Moses and the origins of the Aaronic priesthood and Jesus’ disapproval of the Temple, worship, the priesthood, and sacrifice, His “office”, or ordination as “a priest forever” seems to have superseded the existing priesthood. So if the Aaronic priesthood had it wrong and was corrupted – or was at least incomplete - then the “order of Melchizedek” must have had it right, correct, and fulfilled.

There is, again, a similarity between Melchizedek and Jesus. Melchizedek makes the first reference to God as “God Most High”, rather than the standard “God Almighty”, “Lord Almighty”, or the “Lord God”. Jesus also repeats this habit. God is called or referred to as King or Lord throughout the Old Testament but Jesus repeatedly calls God the Father, or His Father. Here we have Melchizedek and Jesus both calling God a title not commonly used.

”The concept of God as father is central to the life and teaching of Jesus as presented in the gospels … However, “father” is much less common in the Hebrew Bible than other descriptions and title of God, whereas Jesus employs “Father” almost without exception….Conversely, although “king” is a frequent title for God in the Judaism of the time – and despite the fact that the kingdom of God is another constant theme of Jesus’ teaching – only once does Jesus refer to God as king (Matt. 5:35), and even this instance is questionable. There can be little doubt, then, that the notion of God as father is an authentic element of Jesus’ thought.”
J. R. Porter, The New Illustrated Companion to the Bible, 2003, pg. 276

Another odd fact with Melchizedek is that he gave Abraham bread and wine (thus, according to some Christian scholars, prefiguring the Eucharist) and in return received a tithe of Abraham’s booty (which he was not obligated to give). This in itself isn’t so peculiar, but it’s only in conjunction with Leviticus 10:8-9 that it truly takes on its odd nature. Leviticus 10:8-9 says that you must never drink wine (or alcohol) before going into the Tabernacle. If you do you will die. Now Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek was before God’s covenant with Moses (and even predates Mosaic Law). So why would this “law” be given in the book of Leviticus? It could be taken to appear that Moses’ “God” did not want people to drink or partake of the wine. This is consistent with Genesis 3:22

”And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

The Lord God did not want man (Adam) to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. If the fruit of the Tree of Life is Jesus Christ, and if the sharing of the bread and wine between Melchizedek and Abraham was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist and if the Lord God gave Moses the law not to drink wine before the Tabernacle…what does this all mean?

Could Melchizedek, High Priest of the “God Most High”, and also Jesus, “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”, be not only of another order, but also of another god? The true god? The True Father? What significance does this title “God Most High” hold?

“Abram gave a tenth to this priest-king [Melchizedek], not the other way around… This was Abram’s response to Melchizedek’s offer of bread and wine and the blessing which Melchizedek had offered – a blessing which normally comes from the greater person to the lesser. Strangely enough, as the author of Hebrews points out (Hebrews 7:10), in this sense Levi paid tithes and recognized a priesthood which would supersede his own line even before he was born, because “Levi was still in the body of his ancestor” when Abram offered the tithes to Melchizedek.”
from Hard Sayings of the Bible, © 1996, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarcity Press.

“Melchizedek was priest of the Most High God; and consequently not of one people or nation, but of the universe. Aaron was priest of one people…Jesus is priest of all mankind.”
“Christ, being the priest of the Most High God, must also be the priest for and over all whom this most high God made and governs… the whole human race.”
from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Biblesoft

Could Jesus be stating that the world couldn’t see or recognize the Father? This would suggest that the Father, or Jesus’ Father, is a previously unknown or incorrectly understood God.

”If you really know me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:7 (NIV)

”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
John 14: 9-10 (NIV)

”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
John 14: 16-17 (NIV)

If Melchizedek and Jesus are priests of the Most High God and the Most High God is god of all people, and if Aaron (and the Levitical priesthood) are priests of only one people (the Israelites), then God was “working” outside the Israelites as well – outside of, or beside, the Old Testament. Melchizedek was a Canaaite and Gentile, and most definitely not an Israelite.

“…out of the grossly pagan world of the Canaaites emerges not only one who shares beliefs and worship in the same God as the Semitic Abram but one who pronounces the blessings on the patriarch who God had already blessed… This situation is very similar to that of Jethro in Exodus 18. He too was a priest who worshipped the same God Moses did, yet he too was a Gentile Medianite (Exodus 2:16, 3:1 and 18:12). Evidently God was also calling out a people for his own name from among the Gentiles even though the text rarely pauses in its pursuit of the promise-plan of God through the Hebrew people to reflect on this phenomenon.”
from Hard Sayings of the Bible, © 1996, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarcity Press.

The Jew’s God, Yahweh, is most definitely a part of Judaism, as shown in the first umbrella. Yahweh is under the influence or “authority” of Judaism. However, Judaism must be a part of the “Most High God”, since the “Most High God” is the God of all people. It is Melchizedek and Jesus which are priests not of the Jewish Yahweh, but of the “Most High God”. If the “Most High God” is the God of all people, then by definition, all of Christianity, Judaism, the Gentiles, and all people are His people. The question must be asked, what is His Way and how far off are we?

They wrote and spoke of the truth, they attempted to portray the truth (through their own biases), but the only absolute truth lies in the mysterious Order of Melchizedek (which we know so little) and in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ (not necessarily in their interpretations!) He is an absolute reflection of the Father.

What we find is an evolutionary family tree of Christianity

What is this next stage?
How do we find out what this is?
This is what I want to be a part of; a truly catholic Christianity,
a truly universal Christianity.

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