General Question

Hobbes's avatar

What do you think of this interpretation of the crucifixion?

Asked by Hobbes (7257 points ) August 14th, 2011

The mainstream interpretation of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion never made sense to me, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’ve called myself an atheist, but over the last few years, I’ve slowly become, if not religious, then spiritual (though the word bugs me). I’ve adopted a kind of pantheism, the idea that “God” can be seen as the infinity of reality, all the matter and energy in our Universe and whatever lies beyond. This seems to answer the question “what created the Universe” because the creator and the creation are one and the same. I see this idea reflected in parts of Taoism, Buddhism (Zen in particular), Hinduism, as well as the mystical traditions of many monotheistic religions (the Sufis of Islam, for example).

I also recently came across a different interpretation of the crucifixion while reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”, which included this same idea. It essentially said that the story of the crucifixion can be interpreted as an expression of the idea that suffering is not something inflicted by God on us, but is rather something God (or the Universe) is doing to itself. God was and is both Jesus and his tormentors, and likewise is every being that has ever suffered and every being that has ever inflicted suffering.

In this light, Jesus’ greatest message seems to make perfect sense. We should love our neighbors as we love ourselves because our neighbors are ourselves.

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69 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

That’s a lovely thought and allegorical interpretation of the Bible. If only people didn’t have ideas that every goddamn word was literally true in its current English bastardizations of every translation that has been performed of every scrap of parchment connected with it for the past 5000-odd years.

plethora's avatar

Well, It’s original. But since you asked, what I think of this “interpretation” of the Cross, is that it is so far distant from the topic of the Cross and it’s meaning, perhaps a trillion light years distant, that you could take your interpretation and easily swap “lightning bugs” with the word Cross, and have it come out just as meaningful…or not so.

Hobbes's avatar

@plethora

I’m not so sure that’s true. I mean, I am saying that God is a lightning bug just as much as It was Jesus and the centurions and the cross they nailed him to. But the story of the crucifixion is about the question of human suffering, about why people like Jesus, who lived a life full of love, still died this horrible death. Why do the people who do all sorts of good tend often get abused and killed? The only answer that makes sense to me is that these fates aren’t something imposed by an outside force, a God looking down on everyone and judging us all, but rather that the pain is something experienced by the very force that creates it, though each being (or at least each human) generally experiences a powerful illusion of itself as separate from the rest of existence. In this sense, the crucifixion is literally a story of atonement, at-one-ment, with human suffering. God is at one with the suffering of Jesus, and with the suffering of all living beings, because God is all of us. The punchline is that we only make each other suffer because we believe we are separate, we don’t all realize that we are all divine.

plethora's avatar

@Hobbes Ummm…nope. Not even close.

antimatter's avatar

Umm @CWOTUS what are you trying to say???
But here is my theory… Start with lets acknowledge a man by the name of Jesus did exist.
We base that fact on the Bible and other historical accounts. Sadly the Bible been a historical book had been corrupted and had been rewritten a few times according to some scholars in the religious field. Do yourself a favor and read books such as the ” The Second Masai” or watch the documentary “The real Da Vince Code.”
Even Dan Brown admitted that some of the facts he used may be true facts. Jesus did sacrifice himself on the cross to proof a point. Some other religious nuts have done the same in the past and many will do it in the future. The Bible claims that he did it to make some prof icy come true and to suffer for the sins of man. But in my opinion he made a statement to proof that he would die for what he believed in.
As for the great God, well Einstein is right God is the whole entire universe and it will be wrong to connect Him to only this world.
I agree with him…

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Some might suggest the universe is too efficient to allow for arguing with itself. Some might suggest the universe doesn’t have a mind to argue with itself with.

Hobbes's avatar

@plethora

Close to what?

@antimatter

The degree of historical accuracy in the story of Jesus doesn’t really matter to me. I certainly agree that the text is on seriously shaky ground if you use it to try to “prove” anything in a literal sense. I’m talking about the story in terms of myth and personal meaning, not trying for a literal interpretation.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Well, in a sense, there is no “argument” because nothing is separate. The conflict and suffering and sense of separateness are all an illusion generated by consciousness.

laureth's avatar

And here I thought it was a re-write of the “death of the vegetation deity” myth.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The total unity argument can be easily misunderstood. Western culture has butchered it with only half the story told because hard marxists dialectic materialists cannot accept a realm beyond the physical. It breaks us down to nothing more than floating atoms in a realm consisting only of pure energy. It suggests that if there is a G, then that G is simply a different form of energy, but still, nonetheless, energy. It forces us to entertain this question from the same perspective as any materialist would. It does not allow for the missing ingredient that is required to create life, as it completely avoids any discussion of the other principle of ancient eastern teachings that you have left completely out of your OP. Eastern teachings that happen to coincide with biblical principles that you’ve also left out.

You’re giving us only half the story. And it only makes sense if one is a hard marxist dialectic materialist.

mazingerz88's avatar

I wonder if Campbell offered a possible explanation on why God/Universe would even bother to do it unto himself. As for his interpretation, it’s quite interesting.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

yes that’s my point too. and it defeats any purpose for free will. it does not deny it, but it defeats any reason for it. be it god, or just universal unity, it seems very inefficient

And it only tells half the story from eastern and western theologies.

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

It seems to me that the idea of “free will” assumes that which is acting freely is separate from that which it is acting upon.

I am not necessarily saying that the Divine is only material, but rather that the material is Divine. I don’t consider myself a Marxist dialectic materialist, or any one of those terms on their own. I think that the Universe and God are utterly mysterious, and in a sense will always be beyond our conscious understanding. Our ideas of “matter” and “energy”, like our myths and religions, are attempts to understand what is Really Going On, but we will never be able to completely comprehend the Mystery.

“The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name. The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”

Hobbes's avatar

@mazingerz88

That is the fundamental “why is there something rather than nothing?” question. I don’t know whether humans will ever understand it, but I hope that there is some purpose to justify all the pain and suffering.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

”“The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name. The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.””

Please explain what you believe that statement means.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Hobbes Indeed. I tend to think there has to be a purpose even if it’s impossible for anyone to really know the nature of that purpose. It’s frustrating that all of it is just subject to limitless interpretations.

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Well, I think it means that I can’t explain what it means, because human models of reality always fall short of the truth. Words like “God”, “Tao”, and “Universe” are human attempts to describe the indescribable.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

You are very close to true wisdom here. Do some searches on Coptic Christianity to learn more. God is indeed immanent in his/her own creation.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do you know what the word Tao means @Hobbes?

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Wikipedia tells me it is a Polynesian word for “warrior”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well you probably went hunting before I corrected my spelling error from Toa to Tao.

Tao, in the manner we’re discussing, means The Way.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Western culture has butchered the meaning of the Eternal Name and the Eternal Way. That phrase does not mean that you can’t explain it. It actually means the exact opposite. It is your duty as a human to explain it.

harple's avatar

My mother studies A course in Miracles, which, as far as I have understood from brief discussions with her on it is very much along the lines of ‘all being one’ so you may find it interesting to look at.

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

I figured that was what you meant, I was just joking with you. My understanding of the concept is that it is perhaps our “duty” to try to explain it, even if we’ll never completely succeed. We have to walk the path, follow the Way, even if we don’t know where it leads.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

But do you know what The Way is?

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Well, I knew that “Tao” is translated as “The Way”. I think “The Way” can refer to our paths through life, to the path towards wisdom, to the course the entire Universe has taken, and also to something none of us can understand or imagine. Do you have a different interpretation?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If you’ve ever purchase a cheap desk from an office supply store, you’ll probably have to put it together yourself.

As most men might try, we may attempt to put it together in our Own Way. That is not The Way it was intended to be put together.

We might look at the photograph on the box and try to put it together That Way. But that is not The Way it was intended to be put together either.

But if we look into the box, somewhere in there we will find a set of instructions that REPRESENT The Way is was intended to be assembled by the original designer.

The instructions are not The Way. But they represent The Way as intended by the original designer.

We must embrace dualism to understand the meaning of eastern philosophy. Image/Object relationships are crucial to notions of Mediums and Messages that they represent.

The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name. The Way that can be told is not the eternal Way.

This simply means that the Medium IS NOT the Message, as hard marxists materialists would have us believe. It means that the medium represents the message.

The Instructions (The Way that we can see and hold in our hands) is not equal to The Eternal Way (the unseen thoughts that the instructions represent).

Coloma's avatar

Yes, there is no separation.
‘God’ is all.
This, however, does not mean there is no discernment.

We are all part of the totality, and while we should care for one another as we would care for ourselves, be aware that everything is interconnected, ‘sacred’ if you will, this doesn’t mean if you send enough loving vibes you can charm the Cobra so it will not spit in your face. lol

Practice love, acceptance and goodwill, but watch out for the serpents. hahaha

This is where I’ve come to rest, in the moment, in my ‘spiritual’ pursuits.

So, we are aware, on a deep, intrinsic, feeling level, that we are all one, but, we don’t pull the tigers tail and hope our oneness prevents it from ripping our face off. lol

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Early Christianity was called The Way before religion got ahold of it. There are numerous biblical references to this.

Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

Consider Jesus as a set of instructions that act to represent The Eternal Way. That being, The Way of Truth. Accept the Way of Truth and Live… spiritually Live.

Hobbes's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

I think that part of what the Yin Yang symbol represents is the Unity of Opposites. In a sense, the medium is not the message, the hand that points is not the object it points towards. But in another, very real sense, they are one and the same. Yin and Yang are two sides of the same coin.

@Coloma

“Practice love, acceptance and goodwill, but watch out for the serpents.”

Indeed. Love and Fear are both valid and valuable experiences, and neither should be suppressed. However, the way I see it, there is way too much fear and not nearly enough love in today’s society.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yin and Yang are completely different concepts of Mediums and Messages. The opposite of Message is Entropy. The vehicle of Message is Medium.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – I am not a “hard Marxist dialectic materialist”, yet do not accept that there is anything beyond what may be detected.

You misunderstand the scientific mindset.

Hobbes's avatar

@the100thmonkey

I think there is a connection. The symbol expresses that things may be experienced as seperate, and yet are also unified.

@the100thmonkey

“do not accept that there is anything beyond what may be detected”

I believe I understand the scientific mindset, but it doesn’t seem to me that it requires believing that there is nothing beyond what can be detected. Rather, science confines its inquiries to what can be detected. As far as I know it doesn’t make any claims about what may or may not exist beyond that.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When we see code, we detect the mind responsible for it.

Code is a material lens that allows us to detect the immaterial realm of thought.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When we see a ball drop, we detect an invisible force called gravity.

When we see the etchings on an electroencephelagram, we detect an invisible wave called brainwaves.

There are many things we detect, yet remain unseen to the naked eye.

Hobbes's avatar

In one sense, I agree with you, but in another, I think that the material and immaterial are different expressions of the same fundamental reality.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The immaterial thought is not expressed at all without a material code to express it upon. Without the material code, the thought simply IS or IS not. But for us to know that thought in a material realm, it must be expressed with some material form. Code is generally the most stable and communicable form we use to express unformed thoughts upon.

Information… “ation” denotes a process. Inform denotes form from formlessness.

Information is the process of representing formless thought as a physical form.

Hobbes's avatar

“The immaterial thought is not expressed at all without a material code to express it upon.”

Well, yes. Thus, the medium is the message. Information is a transformation of the formless, but in a sense both came from the same source.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The medium is not the message.

Your monitor and my monitor both represent your thoughts. They are not two different thoughts in two different places.

U2 sells one million records of Sunday Bloody Sunday. That is not one million thoughts. It is one million records all pointing to and representing the single thought of Bono’s mind.

Thoughts are separate and unique from the mediums which express them. See Spot Run means the same thing whether is represented by English or French or Japanese.

Hobbes's avatar

“Your monitor and my monitor both represent your thoughts. They are not two different thoughts in two different places.”

Well, yes, but the monitors and you and me are all a part of the same reality, and in that sense they are One.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Being one, and sharing a reality, is no more the same thing as two boxers becoming one simply on the virtue of them being in the same ring.

Hibernate's avatar

I never heard of it before, or at least when someone was referring to it was not that clear. I’ll get back to you after I have time to think about it a bit. [it’s late and I’ll prolly end up sleeping at the pc]

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Sure, it’s a nice interpretation.

josie's avatar

People seem to always want to find a different interpretation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is as if nobody wants to deny it happened, but then again, plenty of people have concluded that there was nothing mystical about it his death, that there was no resurrection, but they want to make accomodations to those who believe it. It is a form of political correctness. He either died, and then returned from the dead [?] or he did not. What else is there to talk about?
But to be sure, death and resurrection is a common theme in human mythology. No surprise that one more story about it would show up one more time in human history.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“If Jesus be not risen, then we are of all men most miserable.”

plethora's avatar

@Hobbes To address your question directly and concretely, I think your interpretation ignores the fact that Jesus the Christ was born into this world and grew to be a man and was crucified to death and then came back to life. I’m ignoring any “interpretation” pending some agreement on the most basic literal facts.

Bagardbilla's avatar

All I can say is ‘I get what you’re saying and I’m “IN” ’ .
WOW!
Thank you for sharing.

Nimis's avatar

That makes a lot more sense to me than the original traditional interpretation.

Hobbes's avatar

“Being one, and sharing a reality, is no more the same thing as two boxers becoming one simply on the virtue of them being in the same ring.”

Well, my point is that both boxers are One with one another on a fundamental level because they are part of the same reality. They are both patterns which arise from arrangements of the same basic particles. Even beneath that, they are both part of the same unified quantum field.

@plethora
@josie
@CaptainHarley

I do not think that the physical resurrection of Jesus can be said with certainty to be a literal fact. But whether or not it “really” happened is not particularly important to me. I am looking at it from the perspective of story and myth. What does the story of the crucifixion and resurrection tell us about humanity, and our relationship to divinity and suffering? This question interests me far more than the literal, objective historical facts.

@Bagardbilla
@Nimis

Thank you both =] There’s a lot of Mystery out there, and I sure don’t have all the answers, but the subject is fascinating to me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

LOL! You’re asking a lot there, bro. BOOKS have been written about that!

plethora's avatar

@Hobbes Ok, thanks for the clarification. You are ignoring the fact of the resurrection in order to focus on perceived myth. Sorry, if I did not believe in the physical resurrection, I think I would just forget about all the rest of it too. Myth has no place in it all. Bye.

Hobbes's avatar

@CaptainHarley

Books have been written about the meaning of the story of the crucifixion? I’m sure you’re right. I’d love to hear your thoughts, though.

@plethora

Why is the idea of a particular collection of cells ceasing to live and then returning to life so important to you? Obviously, if it happened, it would be a unique and important event, but there’s no way to prove that it did or didn’t, because the only evidence we have is a book written and edited by a lot of different people a very long time ago. It seems to me that trying to understand the meaning of the story for human beings today is a much more rewarding pursuit.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Do you want the meanings given to the crucifixion by the church over the years, or do you want my personal take on it?

Hobbes's avatar

Your personal take on it, though whatever you want to say =]

CaptainHarley's avatar

There is a secular reason Jesus was crucified. It was because he made waves that the Priests were afraid would bring the Romans down on their heads. There is a spiritual reason Jesus was crucified. It was so that by his sacrifice, we could know God’s love.

As I said, books have been written about this topic, but those are the two reasons that I see. : )

Hobbes's avatar

@CaptainHarley

That makes a lot of sense. The way I think about it is that God has always loved us, and will always love us, even when we are upon the metaphorical (or literal) cross, even when we are nailing others to said cross. Because God doesn’t condemn us to suffering or forsake us when we experience it. God is right there with us, feeling all the pain and all the pleasure, because God is us. What do you think of that idea? Does it resonate with your own interpretation?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

To a degree, it does. I see God as immanent in all things, but also as a timeless, separate entity who stands above and behind what we see as reality. All aspects of the multitude of universes are supported ( and more are continually being created ) by the continually-being-spoken word of God.

That’s a fair effort at explaining something it has taken me almost an entire lifetime to understand.

Hobbes's avatar

“I see God as immanent in all things, but also as a timeless, separate entity who stands above and behind what we see as reality. All aspects of the multitude of universes are supported ( and more are continually being created ) by the continually-being-spoken word of God.”

Yup. I entirely agree with this, too :-)

“That’s a fair effort at explaining something it has taken me almost an entire lifetime to understand.”

Thank you. Have you ever taken psychedelics? I truly feel they have turned me on to the mystery of existence in a way I might have been able to discover without their aid, but they provided one hell of a powerful short-cut.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Um… LSD and such? No, I have never taken anything like that.

Hobbes's avatar

Yep, or psilocybin mushrooms, or mescaline…

Here is a study showing that people taking mushrooms had what they felt to be genuinely spiritual or mystical experiences.

Here is a link to the text of “The Doors of Perception” by Aldous Huxley, in which he describes a similar experience he had on mescaline.

I don’t know whether it has any interest for you, but this subject and these substances utterly fascinate me.

Hobbes's avatar

If this does in fact interest you, here is a link to a study being done at Johns Hopkins, in which they are giving psilocybin to people with cancer.

“This study specifically focuses on spiritual experience facilitated by psilocybin as a healing factor in patients who are psychologically distressed by their cancer diagnosis”

“Outcome measures include measures of mystical/spiritual experience, quality of life, anxiety, depressed mood, attitude about death, use of pain medication, and blood markers of stress and immune function.”

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

I don’t have any of those problems, but thank you for thinking about me… us… cancer patients. I never got PTSD from Vietnam, so I suppose I have a strong personality. I will periodically get angry at this cancer and cuss it, but that’s about as far as it goes! Heh!

Hobbes's avatar

You’re welcome, though even if you don’t have those particular problems, I’m pretty sure they’d accept you, and the experience would be amazing and valuable in any case. In fact, if you’re in a good place mentally, you’re much more likely to have a good experience.

CaptainHarley's avatar

LOL! The world will never know! : D

Hobbes's avatar

: D Well if you ever do it, please tell me, at least!

CaptainHarley's avatar

LOL! I promise! : D

Hobbes's avatar

I don’t know if you read “The Doors of Perception” link, but I’ve been re-reading it, and thought I’d share a passage that speaks particularly well to the ideas we’ve been discussing.

————

I took my pill at eleven. An hour and a half later, I was sitting in my study, looking intently at a small glass vase. The vase contained only three flowers-a full-blown Belie of Portugal rose, shell pink with a hint at every petal’s base of a hotter, flamier hue; a large magenta and cream-colored carnation; and, pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold heraldic blossom of an iris. Fortuitous and provisional, the little nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste. At breakfast that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance of its colors. But that was no longer the point. I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation-the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.

“Is it agreeable?” somebody asked. (During this Part of the experiment, all conversations were recorded on a dictating machine, and it has been possible for me to refresh my memory of what was said.)

“Neither agreeable nor disagreeable,” I answered. “it just is.”

Istigkeit – wasn’t that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? “Is-ness.” The Being of Platonic philosophy – except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were – a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Whatever is… is.

Thulenord's avatar

If I understand Hobbes’ question: What price to atone for “sin, death, and the power of the devil,” as I had to memorize it from Martin Luther’s Catechism. First, like “kill all the lawyers,” leave your copies of Joseph Campbell for the Wiccans. He surveys the landscape, but never penetrates the earth. Then there is the sidecar with Tao which has nothing to do with the theological traditions of the Bible. The Bible speaks to the Hebrew idea of Torah, also translated, the way, but it is best understood as found in Psalm 1. There is a way for the sinner, the evil man, and the righteous described in the psalm, and the concern is for the atonement of the righteous and the sinner.
The real issue of the crucifixion is not so much the suffering. Taking the sins of the world upon you is so far beyond our idea of pain…who describes the Ocean as moist? We try to encompass it with the Passion. The issue is the Glory of God which passes all understanding. Right there I’ve written out the “atheists.” Glory is not in their vocabulary except as the irony of brooks too broad for light-foot lads to leap. (The carnage of the Somme, 1916.) Jesus is forsaken, alone on the cross. Crucified under the magistrate Pontius Pilate yet in being raised up nailed to the cross the Gospels attest to this act of glorification. Jesus is true man, and true God. Homoousios, of the same Being with the Father. Jesus had one purpose in his life: to reveal the Father. The Father forgives and remembers the sins of the world no more only for the sake of the wholly innocent sufferings (Passion) and death of His Son. Without the Son there is no “crucifixion,” that is, no Glorification of the Son, no atonement with God. Just another petty criminal or big seditious threat, flayed, perforated, stretched, and suffocated (the cause of death.)
A last thought to strip away: creation is a reality distinct from the “Economy of God,” that is, the Godhead, the Trinity. This stuff about God and Nature being one and the same has no basis in Biblical traditions. A lot of that stuff came by way of Gnosticism (alluded to with reference to Copts) in the early church and sadly it remains to confuse, not to redeem, save, atone, reconcile men to God. What interests me is the suffocating aspect of crucifixion. The breath taken from him, as the recapitulation of the breath breathed into Adam, to make him a living soul.
Seminaries try to instill this understanding into heads full of mush with two years of academics and one of internship. Do the newly minted pastors get it? When did you last hear a sermon on the above subject? Even at Easter. Or Palm Sunday when the Gospel text is the crucifixion….

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies
“Western culture has butchered it with only half the story told because hard marxists dialectic materialists cannot accept a realm beyond the physical.”

Interesting. I was completely unaware until you wrote this that “hard marxist dialectic materialists” dictated Western Culture. Huh. Imagine that.

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