At first glance, this would seem to be a blog about Jesus quotes – things he is reported to have said. That’s probably a post for another day. In looking at the 150 quotes of, by, or about Jesus of Nazareth in The Wisdom Archive, I realized that a whole blog could be made of Jesus quotes – not by him, but about him. A fascinating character, shrouded in myth and legend, yet one who touched off probably the most massive following in human history. Truly remarkable. Bordering on unbelievable. Much of what he said was truly revolutionary and very morally upright.
What we know of Jesus is really fairly difficult to know – at least for non-scholars. And many people “have a dog in the fight.” For example, do you think Creflo Dollar is open to the idea that the Jesus he speaks of reflects more of his own heart than the truth of either historical Jesus or the Jesus of the Bible? Here is what one Jesus scholar, Reza Aslan, writes in his well-done book, Zealot:
“The common depiction of Jesus as an inveterate peacemaker who ‘loved his enemies’ and ‘turned the other cheek’ has been built mostly on his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with no interest in or, for that matter, knowledge of politically turbulent world in which he lived. That picture of Jesus has already been shown to be complete fabrication. The Jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. There is no evidence that Jesus himself openly advocated violent actions. But he was certainly no pacifist.”
I guess I would say that I prefer the apt and humane Jesus quotes to the ones that are probably meant to further some institutional, religious, or non-Jewish/non-Roman cause. I think it is fair to say that what we know of Jesus is very tied up with mythical and legendary aspects of the man. In some cases, it is very laudable and prosocial, and so if one or another Jesus quotes are technically incorrect, they often represent “a noble lie,” as the saying goes. One can see in the following Reza Aslan quote that even 2,000 years later, some of the things attributed to Jesus are positive values that most of us could agree upon and would almost undoubtedly help our communities, our world, and ourselves:
“…Jesus’s message was designed to be a direct challenge to the wealthy and the powerful, be they the occupiers in Rome, the collaborators in the Temple, or the new moneyed class in the Greek cities of Galilee. The message was simple: the Lord God had seen the suffering of the poor and dispossessed; he had heard their cries of anguish. And he was finally going to do something about it.”
As you can guess, I revel in seeing the stark difference between the Jesus representing values of the wise, and the Christians who go to church three Sundays a month, watch a lot of sports on TV, shoot deer for sport, vote Republican, reject civil liberties in the fullest sense of the word, bully other kids at school, and spank for discipline. These are not egregious crimes, but they do show the disparity between the theory and the practice.
Most people couldn’t live the life he suggests, which is why it has been said that “The last Christian died on the cross” (Nietzsche). Frankly, far less than half of American Christians really have much to be proud of when it comes to behavior and the love that is in their hearts. This is a country marked by capitalism, conspicuous consumption, and callousness. How many of us spend even one hour a week volunteering? Anyone wash any feet lately? Lepers? “What would Jesus say about Enron?” ~
I would now like to present a wide variety of Jesus quotes – those of some very interesting and diverse individuals who had something insightful to say about Jesus. Let’s start with some more of the Jesus who is alleged to have decried the vast wealth inequality, suffering, and poverty present in the Middle East in that era:
Jesus regularly criticized wealth in both sayings and stories. For Christians today who are affluent or who aspire to affluence, these are among the most challenging teachings of the gospels.
The New Testament demonstrated that neither wealth nor poverty was an accurate index of moral worth. After all, Jesus was the highest man, the most blessed, and yet on Earth, he had been poor, ruling out any simple equation between righteousness and riches.
The only true reality is the inner reality, which is called life, truth, light. The kingdom of God is a psychological state. It is not expected, but is present everywhere and nowhere. It is a state of beatitude which cannot be demonstrated by miracles or scripture, which offers no promise or reward, but is its own proof, its own miracle and reward. Its proofs are inner lights, feelings of pleasure and self-satisfaction. ~ Karl Jaspers
Why worry about minor little details like clean air, clean water, safe ports and the safety net when Jesus is going to give the world an ‘Extreme Makeover: Planet Edition’ right after he finishes putting Satan in his place once and for all?
Both gospels employ the term “Son of God” exactly as it is used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures: as a royal title, not a description. ~ Reza Aslan
As for Jesus being a socialist, I take it back. He was actually a little to the left of that, judging from his instruction to the rich man to sell all that he had and give to the poor.
Jesus’ ethical teaching is based on a view of the world that most of us today no longer hold. Jesus’ ethical teaching – just as all of his teaching – is deeply rooted in a form of Jewish apocalyptic thought that can be dated and localized to his time and place. Jesus thought that the culmination of the history of God’s people, Israel, was soon to come, that the climax of all human history was at hand, that God was soon to intervene in the course of history to overthrow the powers of evil that were in control of this world to bring in his good kingdom, here on earth. ~ Bart Ehrman
Jesus put forward no new system of morality but purified the Biblical ethos and took it as seriously as if it were already fulfilled in God’s kingdom. He lived it without regard for the consequences in the world, for the world was soon to perish. ~ Karl Jaspers
America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. At the moment the idea of Jesus has been hijacked by people with a series of causes that do not reflect his teachings. It’s hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. We have made golden calves of ourselves – become a nation of terrified, self-obsessed idols.
When you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if we only took his advice, we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war?
The New Testament gospels have much to offer the generous and humane ethics of Humanist. Jesus spoke out repeatedly on behalf of broad Humanist ideals such as social equality, the interconnectedness of all humankind, and peace on earth. Some of his teachings… possess an ethical import that will always be an inspiration to Humanists and everyone else.
If you look at the great teachers of the past – people like Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha – you’ll see a common characteristic. They all served others. Like them, we must become servants to the people in our organizations if we want to release the human spirit in our workplaces.
…continuing with the Jesus quotes…
I watched as Glenn Beck in full red-faced bluster translated a video clip of Van Jones calling on his audience to be more caring in our relationships with one another into a subversive plot to turn America into a socialist state. I was aghast. Would Beck have condemned Jesus as a socialist and cheered those who led him off to his crucifixion?
Thus began the long process of transforming Jesus from a revolutionary Jewish nationalist into a peaceful spiritual leader with no interest in any earthly matter. That was a Jesus the Romans could accept, and in fact did accept three centuries later when the Roman emperor Flavius Theodosius (d. 395) made the itinerant Jewish preacher’s movement the official religion of the state, and what we now recognize as orthodox Christianity was born. ~ Reza Aslan
If you truly want to live up to the ideals our forefathers had in mind, if you sincerely care to embody the spirit of Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed, stop hating and start loving. Love even when you don’t really feel it, even when you think you’re faking it. Soon, you won’t be faking it anymore, and you’ll be a better parent, a better friend, a better American, a better person.
Only one of the Gospel-writers includes in his account of Jesus a claim to the authenticity of an eyewitness, and even his account is declared to have passed through editorial hands.
Can’t we silence those Christian athletes who thank Jesus whenever they win, and never mention His name when they lose? You never hear them say, ‘Jesus made me drop the ball.’ ‘The good Lord tripped me up behind the line of scrimmage.’
When Jesus spoke of the Golden Rule, or when your mother told you that a given act (or a thought, perhaps) was wrong, they were trying to teach right from wrong in terms of a theory. When you feel guilty for doing something that is against your moral code, your ethical theory is at work.
Christ instructs us to love our enemies, which does not mean a submission to their hostile agendas or domination, but does mean treating them as human beings also created in the image of God and respecting their human rights as adversaries and even as prisoners. ~ Jim Wallis
A group from South Carolina is calling Christians to come join them and populate a state where everyone is Christian. Jesus is reported to have said: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. So he certainly would not have endorsed a community that favors one man over another. Therefore, there will be no rich men in South Carolina in just a few more years. Yes, the taxation will be high, and the ownership of capital and resources will belong to everyone equally – so that no one goes hungry, and no child goes uncared for. That must be what the founders have in mind; what else would Jesus want!
The individual isn’t quite an individual, he is a branch of a plant. Jesus uses this image when he says, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”
…continuing with the Jesus quotes…
The principal task of the Messiah, who was popularly believed to be the descendant of King David, was to rebuild David’s kingdom and reestablish the nation of Israel. Thus, to call oneself the Messiah at the time of the Roman occupation was tantamount to declaring war on Rome. ~ Reza Aslan
The way of Jesus involves not just any kind of death, but specifically ‘taking up the cross,’ the path of confrontation with the domination system and its injustice and violence.
From my early childhood, I have heard the United States of America, my country, being referred to as a “Christian” nation. Jesus preached, “Love your neighbor” and, “Turn the other cheek” and, “You’re your enemies.” The U.S. government has not been behaving as if it represents a “Christian” nation.
There is nothing morally or socially admirable about the post-Enlightenment world that does not go back to values that were given to humankind whole in a priori form in the New Testament. Jesus already ‘knew’ what modern humanity has only painstakingly discovered after two thousand years, and has yet to fully learn.
It is easy to say what Jesus was not. He was not a philosopher who reflects methodically and systematically orders his ideas. He was not a social reformer who makes plans; for he left the world as it was. He was not a political leader aiming to overthrow one state and found another; he never uttered a single word about the events of his time. He founded no cult, for like the early Christians he participated in the Jewish cult; he did not baptize and he established no organization, no congregation, no church. What then was he? ~ Karl Jaspers
If the person you call Jesus was around during the Jim Crow days in Alabama, at a restaurant that segregated against black people…would he have been served…or would he have been asked to leave the restaurant? He would have been kicked out of the restaurant because of his color.
One of the best-kept secrets of the world has been the activism – the nonviolent resistance – of Jesus. A close reading of the gospel reveals his calling to account an unjust, corrupt system.
It is difficult to place Jesus of Nazareth squarely within any of the known religiopolitical movements of his time. He was a man of profound contradictions, one day preaching a message of racial exclusion (“I was sent solely to the lost sheep of Israel”; Matthew 15:24), the next, of benevolent universalism (“Go and make disciples of all nations”; Matthew 28:19); sometimes calling for unconditional peace (“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God”; Matthew 5:9), sometimes promoting violence and conflict (“If you do not have a sword, go sell your cloak and buy one”; Luke 22:36). ~ Reza Aslan
We, as the citizens of this nation, should say clearly that we do not want the policies and practices of empire. For all their haughty claims, empires exist for one reason only – to take resources from the weak and funnel them to the mighty. This stands in utter contradiction to faith of Moses and the witness of Jesus.
The way of Jesus and the American way of life are not compatible. We must choose whom to serve.
I am responsible to do something about the 500 million who get malaria every year and the 40 million who have AIDS because I will be held accountable for my life [when I meet Jesus].
For every well-attested, heavily researched, and eminently authoritative argument made about the historical Jesus, there is an equally well-attested, equally researched, and equally authoritative argument opposing it. ~ Reza Aslan
…continuing with the Jesus quotes…
In religion, it is not the sycophants or those who cling most faithfully to the status quo who are ultimately praised. It is the insurgents. Recall how often in human history the saint and the rebel have been the same person. Socrates was a rebel, and he was sentenced to drink hemlock. Jesus was a rebel, and he was crucified for it. Joan of Arc was a rebel, and she was burned at the stake.
The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.
Jesus taught me humility and love and infinite patience, and I find myself quietly exercising His teachings now more than ever, just to have the strength to try and understand what has happened to my country. I voted for brotherly compassion and peace, the morals that matter first.
…most people in the ancient world, did not make a sharp distinction between myth and reality. The two were intimately tied together in their spiritual experience. That is to say, they were less interested in what actually happened, than in what it meant. It would have been perfectly normal, indeed expected, for a writer in the ancient world, to tell tales of gods and heroes, whose fundamental facts would have been recognized as false, but whose underlying message would have been seen as true. ~ Reza Aslan
Let us compare Jesus with Socrates: Jesus teaches by proclaiming the glad tidings, Socrates by compelling men to think. Jesus demands faith, Socrates an exchange of thought. Jesus speaks with earnestness, Socrates indirectly, even by irony. Jesus knows the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, Socrates has no definite knowledge of these matters and leaves the question open. But neither will let men rest. Jesus proclaims the only way; Socrates leaves man free, but keeps reminding him of his responsibility rooted in freedom. Both raise supreme claims. Jesus confers salvation. Socrates provokes men to look for it. ~ Karl Jaspers
The first-century Jews who wrote about Jesus had already made up their minds about who he was. They were constructing a theological argument about the nature and function of Jesus as Christ, not composing a historical biography about a human being. ~ Reza Aslan
The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
Jesus was a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality that he preached and practiced was of the most benevolent kind, and, though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek philosophers…and by many good men in all ages, it has not been exceeded by any.
There you have it: Jesus quotes – ABOUT, not by. However, I do have a number of Jesus quotes – quotes BY the man (allegedly) – in The Wisdom Archive. He is a solid representative of wisdom in that he lived his life so very differently and wished to usher in an era of peace, tranquility, justice, and fellowship.