Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

Holy Week sees emphasis on Jesus from religious leaders and scholars

Compiled by Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Tue, April 15 6:50 p.m. MDT

 As most of the world's Christians prepare this week to commemorate the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, leaders including Pope Francis emphasize connecting with Jesus' life and teachings. But one scholar incites controversy.

As most of the world's Christians prepare this week to commemorate the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, leaders including Pope Francis emphasize connecting with Jesus' life and teachings. But one scholar incites controversy.

(Courtesy BYU-MOA)

Around the world this week, Christians of almost every persuasion are turning their focus to the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.

The humble carpenter's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the events culminating with the crucifixion on Good Friday and the resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday are a dominant theme of countless messages at this time.

"In the narrative of Christ’s Passion and Death, who am I?," asked Pope Francis, marking his second Easter season as leader of the world's 1.7 billion Roman Catholics, according to a Vatican Radio report.

The pontiff asked his hearers at a Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square in Rome to place themselves into the gospel account: "We would do well to ask just one question: who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, who enters into Jerusalem in celebration? Am I able to express my joy, to praise Him? Or do I keep distant? Who am I, before Jesus Who suffers?"

On Tuesday, Francis' daily Twitter message stressed the importance of connecting with Jesus: "Each encounter with Jesus changes our life," he said.

In Britain, concern for the poor was part of the pre-Holy Week expression of Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders, the Independent Catholic News service reported, visiting poverty-fighting projects in their dioceses.

"This joint initiative between Archbishop Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols aims to highlight the efforts of Christians who work with those in need," the ICN reported.

Often, Easter is a time when leaders launch new congregations. Orange County, Calif., congregation Saddleback Church, a megachurch headed by Rick Warren, hopes to boost its new Los Angeles satellite campus by having Warren preach two Easter Sunday messages at Hollywood High, whose 1,800-seat auditorium the church rents for worship meetings, according to The Christian Post.

"We have been planning this for years and praying for it and I'm so excited to have a Saddleback campus in the heart of the great city of Los Angeles," the online site quotes Warren from a promotional radio spot.

And what would Easter be without some sort of theological debate?

Onetime-evangelical and biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, a popular teacher whose conclusions often irk more traditional Protestants and Roman Catholics, recently released "How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee" (HarperOne) in which he raises, but doesn't settle, questions of Jesus' resurrection and his divinity.

It's an old debate, as Publishers Weekly magazine noted, revived just in time for this spiritual season.

Ehrman told National Public Radio's Terry Gross that Jesus didn't consider himself God and his disciples didn't consider him to be God. "I think it's completely implausible that Matthew, Mark and Luke would not mention that Jesus called himself God if that's what he was declaring about himself. … This is not an unusual view amongst scholars; it's simply the view that the Gospel of John is providing a theological understanding of Jesus that is not what was historically accurate."

But there are five Evangelical scholars — Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles E. Hill and Chris Tilling — who disagree with Ehrman in their response "How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus' Divine Nature."

"They insist that Jesus’ divinity was no mere afterthought but the essence of his message," Religion News Service reported. "His divine nature was signaled through miracles, forgiveness of sins and biblical allusions that point to Jesus exercising the prerogatives of Israel’s God and meriting worship, they say."

Craig Evans told RNS that it's unusual for opposing books to hit stores at the same time, but he stressed the importance of a counterargument to Ehrman. "Bart clearly fudged the evidence, omitting several relevant pieces of evidence and then misinterpreting other pieces,” Evans said. “In short, (we) had the opportunity to set the record straight — at the same time that Bart’s book makes its appearance."

Email:, Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

1. ordinaryfolks
seattle, WA,
April 16, 2014

Seems to me that the argument over the divinity of Jesus is an argument about making money.

The message is more important than the messenger. I think whatever Jesus was or was not, he might have agreed.

And speaking of the message, just which message are we supposed to believe? The loving, take care of the needy one, or the greedy, expand my empire one? Most religious institutions today seem more interested in expanding their empires than seeing to those need. Most religious institutions jealously guard their prerogatives, and line the pockets of their elders with extravagant housing, cars, salaries and perks. Yeah, a few crumbs get thrown out to the needy. However, most seem interested in power and control. No wonder thinking people question our religious institutions and refuse to support this greed, power madness, and "off message" perversion of the best of the teachings of the man known as Jesus.

2. Craig Clark
Boulder, CO,
April 16, 2014

Jesus hung nailed to the cross dying alone and abandoned in heart-wrenching agony. Whatever he had tried to accomplish in his life’s work, his last thoughts may have been that he had utterly failed and he wanted it to be over with.

3. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
April 16, 2014

Jesus' very last thouoghts apparently were that He had succeeded in finishing His work, and that He could now exercise His divine power to allow His spirit to separate from His mangled body.

Pres. Joseph F. Smith saw in a vision what His first thoughts were once He entered Paradise in the Spirit World. They included feelings of triumph and love.

4. brotherJonathan
April 16, 2014

Go to Mormonorg, Forward this to Pres. Bush, he will want to know about Satan being hardwired instinctual behavior mechanism, which God created.

Pres. Bush this will blow your mind, and it will stay blown for a while until you adapt.. you will..(facebook post to Pres. Bush's library and other sites.)
I wanted you to get your own personal reality update brother.
You have made some mistakes, big ones, but the Lord forgives those who repent. your brother Jonathan.
Hey Denis have been waiting for this info all of your life. Why good people can just totally ignore the suffering of others....right? .. Victims of survival logic my friend. go to facebook colberreport, I am lookin at you.
Geraldo..If you actually read this you will learn things about our true current reality that PhD experts wish they understood.
go to faceb. IBM Research, Face the Nation,Guardian, Huffpost politics. BBCnews. Scientific American, NBC News, ABC, Etc. and see what the top post is. They would like to write the story but instinct program is blocking those actions for now. But not for long. my brother. God is in charge

5. Craig Clark
Boulder, CO,
April 16, 2014

"...They insist that Jesus’ divinity was no mere afterthought but the essence of his message...."

That’s the clarity of hindsight left by 2,000 years of orthodoxy. John’s later written account starts moving in that direction but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke the focus of Jesus’ public speaking was on the Kingdom of God being at hand.

What Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is what we probably will never all agree on. One Catholic view is that the Kingdom was a metaphor for the coming Church. Many Protestants see it as the salvation that comes through Christ. But the Jews Jesus was speaking directly to thought he meant a kingdom of this world.