Bible Passages Containing Yeshua's Teachings

2000 Years of Pauline Christianity

Statements about Paul by Prominent Theologians

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Yeshua's Teachings
and the Church


Something has gone terribly wrong.

In the first century, Yeshua taught his followers to love all people, make peace, forgive, and serve others. He taught them that God in them would guide them into truth and brotherhood, and that they would be able to do wonderful things if they sought and understood the Holy Spirit. He told them the Kingdom of God was spread out upon the face of the earth; it was in them.

Yeshua never suggested his followers find God in a church. However, a church developed almost from the first days after Yeshua was gone, and the church throughout the ensuing two millennia has been characterized by exclusivity, violence, condemnation, hatred, war, church hierarchies, and a focus on listening to the church, not to the Holy Spirit in each person. The church has become synonymous with God. That isn't what Yeshua intended.

Something has gone terribly wrong.

We should be living in the Pax Christos, the Age of Christ, the Kingdom of God as Yeshua envisioned it. We've had two millennia to develop humankind's nature into Yeshua's model. Had it begun in the first century, we would be enjoying its perfection now. Instead, the earliest followers reduced Yeshua to a hollow icon and elevated the church to divinity. As a result, people are self-seeking, hypocritical, deceitful, violent, and separated from God, from others, from the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and from nature.

It greatly pains me to know that we could be living today in a paradise of universal love, openness, and caring—if only those in the first centuries after Yeshua had listened to his message, sought to model the teachings, and transformed themselves and humankind into the brotherhood Yeshua described. Humankind has had two millennia to grow to model Yeshua. The teaching was all there for the Romans, the people of the Dark Ages, the people of the Middle Ages, the people of the Renaissance, the people of the Age of Reason, the people of the Industrial Age, the people of the Technological age—they all just needed to struggle with learning it and living it, building on each others' spiritual growth through the centuries. Today, we would be living in a society formed by the richness and success of their efforts to emulate Yeshua that would have made humankind more loving, tolerant, and compassionate every year of every century.

But they didn't listen; they didn't learn; they didn't transform humanity. And over those centuries, humankind has entered a spiritual dark ages.

Today, "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies" (Gregory S. Paul, "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" [Journal of Religion & Society. Vol. 7, 2005]).

Something has gone terribly wrong.


Yeshua's Teachings

Yeshua died in around 30 CE. The first gospel now in the canon wasn't written until some time after 70 CE, and the others around 90 CE to 110 CE. The intervening years and growth of a body of beliefs around Yeshua changed the message and accounts. We don't know perfectly what Yeshua did say or what occurred during his life. However, we can look at the accounts in the four canonical gospels that have come down to us and the other documents that survived in the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic texts, and learn what Yeshua probably did teach.

Our best sources for what Yeshua actually taught are Mark (around 70 CE), Paul (around 50-65 CE), and the Q source (probably before 70 CE). (For the content of the lost gospel, "Q" or "Quelle," read Q: The Original Sayings of Jesus, Marcus Borg, editor). Parts of these sources show changes of Yeshua's teaching by the church, but later sources were markedly contaminated by the church that grew around the figure that had replaced the historical Yeshua.

Examples of the contamination abound. For example, Yeshua said twice in Matthew that his disciples were to go only to the Jews, not the gentiles and not even to the Samaritans, who used part of the Jewish Old Testament (Matthew 10:5 and 10:7 and 15:23). However, Matthew ends with the great commission to share the message with the entire world (Matthew 28:16-20), a commission that directly contradicts his earlier statements. This statement was obviously added to Yeshua's words by the church that had grown up by the end of the first century. Even Mark, sometime soon after 70 CE, adds the statement, along with warnings of condemnation that were not in Yeshua's character.

We can be reasonably certain that Yeshua's teachings are anything that is repeated often, anything said strongly, anything that fits the tone of the body of teachings, and anything the writers actually didn't themselves understand. We can be reasonably sure that the content we're examining was added by later writers when it has only one or a few verses of text to support it, it is not in the tone of the body of teachings, it is a weak statement, or it fits with the general direction in which the church was taking Yeshua's teachings that isn't supported by other teachings we are confident are his. That content was added as the accounts of Yeshua's life and teachings were changed to fit the church's goals.

As a source for modern understanding of Yeshua's actual teachings, read The Jesus Seminar's book, The Five Gospels (Robert W. Funk, 1997), written by a group of Biblical scholars who have attempted to identify the authentic words of Yeshua from the available texts.

These are the teachings we can be reasonably certain came from Yeshua's lips:

  1. Love God and Love Others
  2. Love All People, Not Just Those Who Agree with You
  3. Make Peace among People
  4. Forgive without Reservation
  5. Do Not Judge Others
  6. Be a Servant to All Others
  7. Model Yeshua's Teachings So People Are Drawn to Spirituality
  8. Listen to the Holy Spirit Speaking Directly to You

Read the Bible passages that state these teachings


These Teachings Don't Describe the Church Today

These teachings don't describe the religion that has the name "Christ" in it. Throughout history, Christian groups have been cruel, violent, materialistic, power-driven, secretive, deceitful, and both sexually and psychologically abusive.

Today, Christian groups are contentious and angry toward one another. The leaders are disdainful of people of other faiths, accumulate personal wealth, and discourage people from approaching God directly. They act like kings rather than humble servants.

Priests sexually abuse children and the church protects them because the church views itself and priests as greater than the people they serve. For a complete description of extensive documentation showing the existence of sexual activity and abuse by clergy for two millennia, since the church's founding, read Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe, and Patrick Hall. Volt Press, 2006). The book won the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Gold Medal. The book explains in great detail the church’s long-standing awareness of this issue, its failures to address the problem, tactics for avoiding facing it, and its continuing efforts to keep it secret.

Church leaders are bureaucrats and entertainers, not spiritually mature models of Yeshua's teaching, and so they often fall from grace and are discredited. But they were promoted to leadership as bank presidents are, not because they were admired for their servanthood or having the mindset described by Yeshua. They certainly are not models of Yeshua's teaching that draw people to them as resources who will help people grow spiritually.

Christian countries and their leaders who profess Christian faith engage in wars, and church leaders support the wars. The enemy is everywhere to these Christians. They have a list of outcasts and condemn those whose lifestyles are different from theirs. Jerry Falwell, the Baptist minister who founded the Moral Majority, was "a segregationist who harshly attacked Martin Luther King through the 1960s and later called Archbishop Desmond Tuto of South Africa a phony." ("Don't Believe the Hype," Jonathan Alter, Newsweek online, May 16, 2007. Retrieved from May 16, 2007).

Our world today is full of violence, deceit, materialism, hollow spirituality, self-centeredness, anger, separation of man from man, and rampant destruction of nature. That is true in spite of the fact that there are 2.1 billion Christians on the planet today, and Christianity has dominated Western culture for 14 centuries. America regularly engages in war and is hated by large groups of people, even though it is a "Christian nation." Yeshua's teachings or the "Christ mind" have not had an effect on Christians or the world in general.

Something has gone terribly wrong.


What Has Gone Wrong?

The church is a human institution. It fell into human faults from the first days after Yeshua's death and never righted itself. It cast itself adrift from Yeshua's teachings, and in so doing, lost its true course in the Holy Spirit. This is what happened, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (written around 90 CE).

  1. The apostles misunderstood the kingdom Yeshua spoke about.

    The Acts of the Apostles was written in around 90 CE, so it was apparent that Yeshua's return was delayed beyond what the apostles had expected. When Luke wrote his account of what happened when Yeshua appeared and ate with the apostles after his death, he reported them asking him, "Lord, are you now going to set up the kingdom of Israel?" (Acts 18:6).

    However, Yeshua had repeated clearly that the Kingdom of heaven is here already (reported in the canonical gospels at Matthew 4:17, 10:7, 12:28; Luke 10:9, 10:11, 11:20, and in other verses). His statement was also reported in the Gospel of Thomas: "the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it" (Gospel of Thomas, Verse 113, Lambdin translation). Yeshua wanted the disciples (later apostles) to establish the Kingdom of God in themselves by following Yeshua's teachings. The Kingdom of God, he clearly said, was inside them (Luke 17:21). The disciples must be "born again" (John 3:3).

    However, the disciples were still looking for a Jewish Messiah who would rout the Romans and establish the Kingdom of God on Earth with him as king. Yeshua, they presumed, was the Messiah who would lead a celestial army and defeat the Romans. Later in Acts, Peter said God foretold to David that Yeshua would sit at God's right hand until he brought his enemies down and put his feet on them (Acts 2:34-35), and that God told Moses that, "everyone who does not obey that Prophet [Yeshua] will be cut off from his people altogether" (Acts 3:23).

    These words from Yeshua's apostles were in direct contradiction to Yeshua's words. The Kingdom of God was within man, not in the land. He wanted people to pray for their enemies, not have God put his foot on them.

  2. In the weeks after Yeshua's death, violence began quickly.

    When it was apparent that Yeshua was not going to return with a few days or weeks, the band of followers sold their belongings and property in Galilee, moved to Jerusalem, and pooled their money to wait for Yeshua to return, assuming it would not be much longer. Two followers, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, sold a field, but didn't give all the money from the sale to the apostles to be used for the community.

    Peter confronted Ananias about it with strong, vituperate language: "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? Why do you lie to the Holy Spirit?" Ananias, Luke reported in Acts, fell dead on the spot. His wife, Sapphira came in three hours later. Peter confronted her about the money and she fell dead at Peter's feet. Luke reported that "all the people who heard about this were very much afraid" (Acts 5:1-11).

    Violence had intruded itself into the church within days of Yeshua's death. The occurrences were remarkable in their ferocity and provide insight into the early church:

    • The deaths were very suspicious. Two people fell dead instantly when they displeased the apostles. However, apparently nothing was made of it at the time. Either God killed them or the apostles killed them. The fear of retribution from their exposure probably would not have been great, but even a fear that the group would be angry with them would hardly have killed two people within hours of each other, and the clear message was that they didn't die of natural causes—something killed them because they displeased the Holy Spirit.

    • Luke follows with a celebratory, "The apostles did many signs and wonderful things" (Acts: 5:12), as though the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were among the "signs and wonderful things." The reader was to believe the deaths were wonderful acts.

    • Luke stated that the people were "afraid," indicating that Peter and Luke apparently felt that God was an angry, irascible man who would snuff out someone's life if they disobeyed, rather like a Mafia Don. God should be feared.

    • Peter castigated Ananias saying, "Why do you lie to the Holy Spirit?" Already, the wishes of a group of men had come to be regarded as the will of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke to the group by consensus or spoke to the apostles, and anyone who did not conform to the regulations they articulated could be put to death. That would be repeated and amplified through the following centuries.

    • Luke, writing 60 years after the incident, made a point of reporting it. If it had been counter to the tone of the church, he could have omitted it or downplayed it. Instead, it occupies a prominent position in its detail and length. It is apparent that the church by Luke's time and probably at the time of the incident, felt that violence to achieve God's ends, as interpreted and enforced by the church's leaders, was not only perfectly acceptable, it was a sign of the rightness of the church's position and God's presence in the body of believers. This attitude was to result in unspeakable atrocities in the centuries that followed.

    Yeshua taught these lessons:

    1. Love God and Love Others
    2. Love All People, Not Just Those Who Agree with You
    3. Make Peace among People
    4. Forgive without Reservation
    5. Do Not Judge Others
    6. Be a Servant to All Others

    However, in the days after Yeshua's death, followers of Yeshua believed that either God or an apostle was justified in judging, condemning, and killing two followers of Yeshua for disobeying the group or apostles.

  1. Contentions among Christians killed Stephen and resulted in the banishment of some faithful followers.

    The Jerusalem church had two parallel groups of Jewish followers of Yeshua: the "Hebrew Christians" and the "Grecian Christians" or "Hellenists." It was apparent that all was not well between the two groups. The Grecian Christians complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1). Obviously, the Hebrew widows were taken care of in the distribution while the Grecian widows were being ignored. This is a remarkable practice among people who followed the man who said "By this shall all men know you are my disciples: if you show love to one another."

    The apostles were Hebrews. They solved the problem by having a group of Grecian deacons distribute food. It seems that they didn't want to serve the Grecian widows because the issue of serving widows didn't come up until this problem with the Grecian widows arose, and it was obviously a real problem because they did something to remedy it.

    The quarrels continued. Stephen, a Grecian Christian whom Luke describes as one who "believed God and was full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5), was a talented evangelist Luke describes in this way: "Stephen received much blessing and power from God. He did many wonderful things and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).

    Some Hebrew Christians who came from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia Minor had an argument with Stephen on some issue, presumably theological. They couldn't say anything against "his wise words and the Spirit by whom he spoke." So this is the account of what happened from Acts 6:11-14:

    1. So [the Jewish Christians who disagreed with Stephen] paid some people to say, `We have heard him say wrong things about Moses and God.'
    2. They talked to the people, the leaders, and the scribes, and made them angry. They went quickly and caught Stephen and took him into the court.
    3. They brought in the men who told lies about him. They said, "This man is always saying wrong things about this holy place and the laws.
    4. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will break down this place and that he will change the law which Moses gave us."

    The members of the court took Stephen out and stoned him to death.

    Thus, the disagreement among the followers of Yeshua resulted in false testimony by other Christians that led to the death of one of the followers described as "full of the Holy Spirit."

    Later, the Grecian Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem, leaving the Hebrew Christians. What happened isn't clear, but it is clear that the group was divided between the Grecian Christians and Hebrew Christians.

    Something was terribly wrong. Controversies in the early church surfaced repeatedly through the first century until the Jewish contingent became overwhelmed by gentile converts and the church stabilized by dismissing all beliefs not in line with those of the majority. However, what is striking is that Yeshua's words had so little moderating effect; the groups were as contentious as before his teaching.

  2. Early creeds dropped Yeshua's teachings.

    Beginning very early, with Peter and Paul, the belief that Yeshua was the Son of God and salvation could come only by belief in him had become the foundation of the Christian church. Yeshua's teachings were not cited by Paul, and where he mentions counsel that seems to reflect Yeshua's teachings, the suggestions are not given the strength of focus that Paul gives to the central tenet: confess belief that Jesus is the Son of God and you are saved.

    This is the early creed from Acts 16:30-31, reflecting the belief by Paul:

    He . . . asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And [Paul and Silas] said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

    This quotation from Acts 2: 37-39 shows the same teaching by Peter:

    37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

    38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

    There is no mention of Yeshua's teachings in these statements by Paul and Peter. The belief system continued into the second century. This is the "Rule of Faith" used by Iranaeus by around 180 CE:

    . . . this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them;

    and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation;

    and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race . . .

    The central word in Yeshua's teaching, that he repeated again and again, is "love": love for God and love for others. "Love" doesn't appear in the Rule of Faith. Other words Yeshua stressed are "forgive," "judge not," and "servant." None are mentioned. The creed turns away from the individual's inner spiritual growth (that Yeshua referred to as becoming "born again"), and substitutes an external assent to a creed. Yeshua, who focused his entire ministry on the individual growing spiritually within, is not in the creed. Instead, the requirement to believe in the Christ described by the church in order to be saved has been substituted.

    What has gone wrong is that the followers of Yeshua externalized Christ and lost Yeshua's teachings about inner spiritual growth. As a result, the church, the countries that adopted the church as their state religion, and the individuals belonging to the church, have been able to perform unspeakable atrocities without remorse or consequence; have become deeply and irretrievably materialistic; and have not grown spiritually to resemble the model and teachings Yeshua provided two millennia ago.

    By the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 and the adoption by the Roman Empire of Christianity as the state church at the end of the fourth century, a church hierarchy had been added to the creed, along with some doctrinal statements, but it still lacked any mention of "love," "forgiveness," "judge not," "servant," or even the words "teachings of Jesus." It had become preoccupied to the point of redundancy with stating that Yeshua (now Christ Jesus) was of one substance ("homoousian") with God rather than of like substance ("homoiousian"). Jesus wasn't "made" by the Father; he was "begotten" by the Father, giving him equal status with God the Father. The Kingdom of God had become something that will come in the future, would be a physical kingdom, not inner spiritual maturity, and would be available only for those who swore allegiance to the Christ. This is the Nicene Creed:

    We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

    The creed begins with "I believe." It should begin with "I love." Yeshua didn't teach about believing—he taught about loving. "I love God and all men" should have been the first words. "I" is the first word, but then it appears nowhere else in the creed. Yeshua taught about "I," meaning each individual. "I must be born again; I must love; I must forgive; I must not judge," and Yeshua taught that the Holy Spirit would guide people in that spiritual growth. The creeds extinguished the Holy Spirit after the Prophets received their revelations, leaving humanity without the light Yeshua promised. The church believed it provided all the knowledge people needed; the Holy Spirit became superfluous.

    Yeshua gave his own creed to his disciples very clearly: "I give you a new law. That law is, 'Love each other.' As I have loved you, so you also love each other. This is how all people will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:34-36). It was a creed of being, not believing, and the central word was "love." The creed Yeshua gave to his disciples never appeared in any of the church creeds that were written and recited after 30 CE.

    There is no love in the creed of the Christian church. There is no forgiveness. There is no brotherhood. Instead, there is exclusivity, judgment, arrogance, and condemnation. The humble, spiritual Yeshua of Galilee who spoke to the people about love before 30 CE is not in the creed. The Christ of the church has taken his place.

    That is what has gone terribly wrong.


Recently, in a study of what Roman Catholic parishioners regarded as essential to their faith, they responded with these comments:

"In every assessment, Catholic laity reported that sacraments and charity toward the poor were central to their understanding of the essence of Catholicism,” Hoge said at The Catholic University conference. “Devotion to Mary the Mother of God was almost as central. Creedal beliefs such as Jesus’ resurrection were central. By contrast, other elements came out consistently low: specific moral teachings about the death penalty and abortion, and specific church rules, for example, requiring personal confession or saying that only celibate men could be priests.” (Catholic University sociologist Dean Hoge, in a series of surveys conducted over nearly 20 years, Hoge and his colleagues asked Catholics what is “essential” about their faith. From "Future of the Catholic Church," by Joe Feuerhed.

Love, forgiveness, judging not, and growing spiritually through the Holy Spirit are not in the list at all, even among the "consistently low" beliefs. None of the teachings of Yeshua are in the minds of the members of the church at even a minimal level. Instead, the Christians today, reflecting the teaching of two millennia by the church, regard as essential to spirituality the sacraments, "charity toward the poor" (meaning giving money, not ministering to them or loving them), devotion to Mary, and Jesus' resurrection.

The theology introduced by Paul in the first century, that departed from Yeshua's teachings, has molded the thinking of the Christian laity even into the twenty-first century. Yeshua's teachings remain among the crumbled and buried ruins of first century Galilee.



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