Sr. Louise Zdunich

YOUR QUESTIONS

June 29, 2015

QuestionTo what sect or group did Jesus belong? Was he a Pharisee or a Sadducee or what?

 


AnswerThese sects you mention are from the official and formal hierarchy of Jewish groups that originated during the period just before or after the birth of Christ. Besides the two you name, there were the Essenes and Zealots. Each of these had their own specific beliefs.

The Pharisees accepted both the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and oral tradition as inspired. They believed in a hierarchy of angels and demons, human equality, a future for the dead, and the immortality of the soul with reward and retribution.

For the Sadducees, only the Books of Moses were Scripture but were interpreted more literally than by the Pharisees. The Essenes were strict and zealous Jews who observed the strict purity laws of the Torah. They kept communal ownership of property and had a sense of mutual responsibility.

Jesus and his family did not belong to any of these formal groups. They were simple peasants who lived in Nazareth where Joseph was a carpenter, a labourer while Mary carried out the ordinary tasks of a wife and mother.

Matthew, like the other 3 evangelists, wrote a Gospel that suited his own theological purposes.

Matthew, like the other 3 evangelists, wrote a Gospel that suited his own theological purposes.

Scripture does not give us much information about their lives. But the Gospels show different facets of Jesus' life so we have four pictures or aspects of who Jesus is.

The Gospel of Mark is considered to be the earliest Gospel. It tells us that Jesus is the Son of God and that he, Mark, is reporting that his Gospel is the "good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Mark begins with the actions and preaching of John the Baptist who lives in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey. He baptizes people and calls them to repentance for the forgiveness of their sins.

John the Baptist makes a striking contrast between himself and Jesus proclaiming that Jesus, who is coming soon, is more powerful than he, John: "I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

AN URGENT GOSPEL

Urgency appears to be the key factor in the rest of Mark's Gospel as he reports a hurried movement of miracles and preaching as if everything is urgent. Therefore, Mark's Jesus is quite human in his actions and words.

The Gospel of Matthew has a slower pace, giving a genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, beginning with Abraham and coming down to Jesus whose father was father, Joseph, the husband of Mary who gave birth to Jesus.

Matthew's Gospel is the only one that includes the story of the flight into Egypt, which was the result of Herod's plan to kill the first-born whom the wise men had come to adore.

Luke, a Gospel of mercy and forgiveness, shows Jesus as a friend and advocate of the poor and those at the fringes of society.

Luke is often considered the Gospel of women because it recognizes women's role, especially that of Mary and Anna, as equal to that of men.

Luke's emphasis on the Holy Spirit is greater than is that of the others in both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke's Jesus is gentle, compassionate and considerate, which often gives Luke's Gospel an aura of kindness and peace, even in violent situations.

JESUS AS DIVINE

In John's Gospel, there is no need for angels and shepherds, star and wise men. Jesus inspires awe from the opening verse. John presents Jesus as divine, co-existent with the Father.

John makes it clear that although Jesus' humanity is undeniable, he possesses another greater nature, his divinity: "In the beginning" is like Genesis, "was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1.1).

FOUR IMAGES

The Gospels present four images of Jesus, God and man. Different, yet all four pictures belong to one person who is both God and man. Each evangelist gives the image of Jesus which suits his purpose and the needs of his listeners and readers. Is this sufficient?

No, for all Christians must bring to the world the face of Jesus by their own lives. Each must be a living Gospel, an image through which the light of Christ shines brightly to a world greatly in need of that living light of Christ.

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@shaw.ca)