Episode:The Fourth Epochal Revelation to Urantia (Part 4)
During the times of Jesus there were diverse and widespread religious and philosophical beliefs in the Occident and the Levant. All these influences—Greek philosophy, Hebrew and gentile religions, and the mystery cults—contributed to the rapid expansion of Christianity as preached by Paul and the early evangelists. Throughout preceding ages religion had chiefly been an affair of the tribe or nation; soon it would be upstepped by Jesus’ gospel of personal religion—sonship with God.
Keywords: Urantia, Jesus of Nazareth, Philo, Paul, Christianity
Summary by Kermit
Prior to our reading, we spent some time discussing what is meant by true science and its relation to the 5th ER. In the best sense science is knowledge of the outer life, or material realm. Such knowledge found in the 5th ER concerning our animal origins and nature are often assessed through the lens of current day “political correctness”. As was mentioned, our challenge is to develop the ability to discriminate between facts and figments, and cultivate an objective perspective in which to perceive the movement of truth in these facts. Truth is not found in facts or goodness, but in the relationship between genuine facts and genuine goodness. Can we rise to the challenge of going beyond our initial encircuitment by grace in the cosmic community, letting go of our preconceived opinions, settled ideas and longstanding prejudices and allow the 5thER to authoritatively eliminate our error?
4. Gentile Philosophy
Continuing our look at conditions into which Jesus arrived, the authors provided a high level survey of the four main philosophies then dominating the gentile world. Though morally inferior to the Jews, the nobler of the gentiles did harbor sufficient natural goodness and potential human affection to allow for the sprouting of the seed of Christianity to produce an abundant harvest of moral character and spiritual achievement. In the ascending order of their spiritual value we find the Epicureans, Stoics, and Cynics. Skepticism, negating the validity of knowledge and impossibility of finding conviction and assurance, was purely negative and never became widespread. That is until today, underscoring the philosophical emergency in which the world currently finds itself.
The Epicureans pursued happiness, effectually fought ignorant superstition and delivered the Romans from fatalism.
Stoicism, the superior philosophy of the better classes believed a controlling Reason-Fate dominated nature, and that man’s soul was divine, imprisoned in an evil body. Liberty was attained by living in harmony with nature. While seeking to attune their minds to the harmony of the Universal Mind, they never discovered God as a loving Father.
Cynics trace their philosophy and its doctrines back to the remnants of Machiventa’s teachings. Machiventa’s fundamental teaching, “salvation and God’s favor is to be had by faith alone”, evolving into the Cynic’s doctrine “man could save himself if he would.”
Excepting skepticism, these philosophies contained an immature budding spiritual consciousness, and as such tended to foster evil and error detection on the part of their devotees. Thus, the current day meanings of the words, particularly “cynic” have come to have decidedly negative connotations.
These philosophies (even skepticism today) were attractive to the strong and the wise, being invigorating, ethical, and ennobling, but not religions of salvation, even for the poor and weak.
5. The Gentile Religions
Earlier religions being tribal or national afforded little satisfaction for the individual. In the times of Jesus, four types of religions were: pagan cults, emperor worship, astrology, and the mystery religions.
Emperor worship aroused the serious resentment of the deification of humans by the Jews and early Christians led to bitter persecutions of both by the Roman government. Had the Jewish and early Christian leaders been more discerning of the elements of truth in such worship they might have been able to side-step some of the more egregious episodes of persecution.
The mystery religions, promising individual salvation for all, were most attractive to the lower classes of the Greco-Roman world, thus preparing the way for the rapid spread of the superior Christian teachings; a majestic concept of Deity, an intriguing theology, and the offer of true salvation for all. They also transcended national beliefs. There were many such mysteries, but all were characterized by: a mythical legend of some god’s life, death and return to life, the emergence of religious brotherhoods and sectarian societies, and elaborate ceremonies and sacraments, plus the promise of salvation.
While the teachings of Jesus are not to be confused with the mysteries, their popularity testifies to man’s real quest for survival, and hunger for personal religion. Though they failed to satisfy this longing, they prepared the way for Jesus’ promise of true versions thereof.
Because of Paul’s theological compromises with the mysteries (particularly Mithraism), Jesus’ teachings were rendered more acceptable to a larger number of prospective converts. His compromises were superior to the best in the mysteries. Paul taught moral redemption and forsook magic and enchantments. Christianity offered salvation from death in the afterlife, and deliverance from sin in this life. Christianity was also based on historical fact, not myth.
Such were the philosophical and religious complexities into which Jesus was born.
6. The Hebrew Religion
At Jesus’ advent, Greek culture and philosophy had tremendously influenced the religious thought at Jerusalem, thus was the Hellenistic view of Hebrew thought adopted there and throughout the Occident and Levant. Translation of the Hebrew scriptures, and the appearance of Christian teachings, both in the Greek language were a vital influence later determining the drift of Paul’s Christian cult toward the West instead of toward the East.
It was the harmonization of Greek philosophy and Hebrew theology by Philo of Alexandria that prevailed in Palestine when Jesus lived and taught. This was subsequently utilized by Paul as the foundation of his cult of Christianity. Both Philo and Paul are numbered among the seven outstanding human teachers in the matter of the combination of the better elements in contemporaneous systems of ethical and religious teachings.
To the Jews dispersed throughout the world, they were of one accord in their recognition of the temple of Jerusalem as the center of their religion, notwithstanding its near extinction, but for the timely intervention of certain Babylonian teachers. And it was to Jerusalem, that as many as two and one half million of these dispersed Jews came to worship at their national religious festivals ever looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Who were those Babylonians?