The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Universality of Jesus

It is, of course, the belief of all Christians today that Jesus meant his preaching for all mankind, Gentiles and Jews alike. This belief however, is not supported by a critical study of the genuine utterances of Jesus in the gospels. The authentic traditional material gives a very clear indication that the earthly Jesus, not the Jesus of Christian theology, meant his teachings strictly for the Jews. [1] One of the most clear-cut examples of this is his instructions to his disciples as they go out to preach his message:

Matthew 10:5-6
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."

By the time these gospels were written many Gentiles were already Christians. It was therefore unlikely that the passage above, which overtly excludes the Gentiles from Jesus' plan, would have been invented by the tradition or the evangelist. It is therefore extremely likely that the above quote represents an authentic quotation of the historical Jesus.

And in the case already cited earlier about Jesus and the Greek Phoenician woman who asked him to heal her daughter, Matthew made Jesus tell her in no uncertain terms where his sympathies lie:

Matthew 15:24
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

For the same reason as the above passage, this quotation is very likely an authentic utterance of the historical Jesus. Let us now have a look at the whole episode as Mark presented it.

Mark 7:24-30
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence a secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." She went home and found her child lying on the bed and the demon gone.

As Nineham pointed out, [2] Jesus' use of the word dog, a supreme insult to this day in the middle east, leave no uncertainty as regards the distinction between Jew and Gentile in the eye of Jesus. It did not change the order of salvation, where Jews came first, as Jesus understood it. Jesus' actions and his words in this particular case show that this extension of his miraculous powers was to be an exception rather than the norm. [3]

Another point worth noting is not what is depicted in the gospels but what is not: there is no recorded preaching or teaching of Jesus to the Gentiles. This shows us that there is nothing in the early Christian tradition about it. It is most unlikely that the gospels would have missed out on narrating Jesus' preaching to the Gentiles had it actually occurred or had it actually been circulated in the early tradition. [4] As was pointed out in chapter eight, all our sources tell us that Jesus confined his travels to purely Jewish areas. We have no evidence the he knew about nor cared for Gentile culture. [5]

There is, however, a supposed instruction of Jesus to his disciples that seems to have negate all we have just said:

Matthew 28:18-19
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations."

Unfortunately (for Christians) there are many difficulties involved in accepting the above verse as an authentic saying of Jesus. [6] In the first place, it openly contradicts all the earlier verses we have quoted. In the second place the setting for this instruction was on a mountain in Galilee after the resurrection of Jesus. We have already shown earlier that the resurrection appearances, at least in the form depicted in the gospels, are unhistorical.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for the rejection of the above passage as historical lies in the attitude of Jesus' disciples after his death (and supposed resurrection appearances). We note that after the death of Jesus the disciples remained profoundly Jewish, for they continued to use the temple as their place of worship:

Acts 2:46
Everyday they [Jesus' disciples] continued to meet together in the temple courts.

Acts 3:1
One day Peter and John were going up the temple at the time of prayer...

In chapter ten of the Acts of the Apostles we are told that Peter, the supposed leader of the disciples, needed a vision (Acts 10:9-23) before he can be convinced that a Gentile is not unclean (Acts 10:28). And amazingly the other disciples, who were with Jesus on that mountain in Galilee, and heard Jesus' injunction, did not condone Peter's actions:

Acts 11:1-2
The Apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him...

And in Paul's (authentic) epistle to the Galatians, we are told of an incident concerning Peter that clinches our case on the falsity of the passage in Matthew 28:18-19. It involves Peter not daring to eat with the Gentiles when he was warned by James' followers:

Galatians 2:11-12
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcised group.

Had Jesus left any instructions to the disciples about preaching to the Gentiles, Peter would not have been so uncertain in his actions. As we can see from Acts 11:1-2 above, the other disciples of Jesus too disapproved of Peter mixing with the Gentiles. It was the self-proclaimed apostles such as Paul, who had never met the human Jesus, who preached the good news to the Gentiles. As Guignebert reasons:

We must ask ourselves whether the companion of Jesus would have dared to contravene his express command and repudiate his example by maintaining this attitude of inveterate hostility to the non-Judaizing Gentiles. On the other hand, if he had expressed any wish on the subject, surely the liberals would have triumphantly appealed to his example and if it had been in their power would have confounded the recalcitrant by quoting his commands. [7]

In other words, the early debate between Paul and Peter would not have occurred had Jesus gave clear cut instructions on proselytizing the Gentiles. The fact that the debate occurred, and heatedly, showed that Jesus never mentioned the Gentiles in his preaching. It never occurred to him he had to, the Gentiles did not figure in his understanding of the plan of redemption. He never meant his preaching to go outside of Jews and Judaism.

The authors of the gospels were, of course, Christians and their works were probably done in a Gentile Christian community. The fact that the utterance of Jesus' given in the gospels were markedly Jewish in character showed that the tradition is very likely authentic. Jesus was, as a teacher and preacher, a failed reformer of Judaism. He never intended to abrogate the Law of Moses, as Christians doubtless believe he did. This is obvious from the passage below:

Matthew 5:17-20
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The fact that Jesus' immediate disciples continued to practice Judaism (going to the temple to worship God, refusing to eat Gentile food etc) after Jesus' death (Acts 2:46, 3:1) proves that at least the essence of the above passage is authentic. Their strict observance of the Jewish Law showed that Jesus, in his teachings, never meant to abolish it. [8]

The considerations above should convince that Jesus was not a universalist. It is probably shocking to most Christians today to find out that the supposed founder of their religion never put them into his considerations.

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1.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p62
Guignebert, Jesus: p317
2.Nineham, Saint Mark: p200
3.Guignebert, Jesus: p317
Nineham, Saint Mark: p200
4.Nineham, Saint Mark: p197
5.Cuppitt & Armstrong, Who was Jesus?: p62
6.Guignebert, Jesus: p317
7.Ibid: p318
8.Guignebert, Jesus: p302

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