Jesus was a Scientist in the Greek Tradition
Dr. Gerry Lower, Keystone, South Dakota
It is rather striking how many great scientists have contributed to
western cultural evolution without having very much to say about where
they were "coming from," the nature of the world within which
they made their contributions. Many brilliant thinkers were simply too
active, e.g., Jesus and Jefferson, to take time for such introspection,
hoping that their contributions would stand on their own merit and knowing
that it is always possible to backtrack and identify starting points from
the results of their work.
It is, for example, not particularly difficult to comprehend where Charles Darwin was coming from. For starters, he was coming from a natural One world in which everything is related and connected in time, a world in which it is implicit that Life comes of itself, a world in which it is implicit that supernaturalism and an external source of authority are unnecessary if not irrelevant to self-comprehension.
In other words, Science has had its own theological ground all along, its own spiritual world unrelated to that of religion. Science has its own answers to "why" questions, both in terms of human origins and in terms of human purposes. Once that has been recognized, one is left to deal with nothing but the actual, tangible, observeable world (where all good Science has begun since Greece).
A primary feature of Science is that no matter how complex a subject can be made from the bottom up, it always remains simple from the top down, it always remains simple in the conceptual sense and in the elegant sense. If a scientist cannot explain what he is doing in "street" English and precise analogies, he quite likely does not know what he is doing.
Darwin's "Theory of Evolution," for all its complexities, is conceptually very simple and elegant in saying that all life forms evolved from the molecules of the earth, that all of life is related, that all of life is bound up in one evolutionary process. Darwin was able to see strands of that larger process all about him in the living world and in the fossil record. He was able to see structural, functional and behavioral relationships between living things that outlined the inherent creativity of Life. Darwin set all living things to the music of time and order. What Lyell did for geology and the evolution of the earth, Darwin did for biology and the evolution of life on earth. This posed such an overwhelming threat to supernaturalism, the Papacy was forced, in 1870, to declare itself infallible, not that Science was wrong. The church had no option but to bow out in a cop out.
In essence, Darwin observed existing life forms and their fossil records and provided temporal organization and order to the natural processes he observed. That could be accomplished on empirical/logical ground, by virtue of Darwin's living in a conceptual One World in which such order would seem likely to exist. All of human brilliance is found in looking for things that others, living in smaller worlds, would never think existed and would, therefore, never seek.
The provision of a causal explanation (the "why") for observed natural processes (the "how") was likewise accomplished on empirical/logical ground by demonstrating mutation and natural selection as providing the earthborn motivation for biological evolution. By integrating empirical knowledge into larger viewpoints, Darwin made it possible to conceptualize the core evolutionary process beneath life on earth. Darwin made it possible to see Life on earth as a unity involved in an integrated, ordered process with inherent direction.
By answering "why" questions in a scientific context, Darwin provided a pan-cultural knowledge base and a world view that united all people on earth in one living program, independent of cultural background and without need of supernatural intervention. Life comes of itself. We now know about actual human origins on a global, non-exclusionary basis.
The same situation unfolds in considering the "Germ Theory of Infectious Disease," the "Great Sanitary Awakening" and the work of Snow, Pasteur and Koch. Once again, the men who gave us epidemiology, preventive medicine and public health were coming from a world in which the natural history and causes of disease are entirely earthbound, a world in which supernatural intervention, e.g., a retributive god, is not only unnecessary, but dishonest and unethical by both Hippocratean and nascent Christian standards. "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents" that he be born blind (John 9:1).
One story in particular sheds light on how these views were developed. Pasteur had discovered the bacillus that causes anthrax in cattle and the recommended approach to stop the spread of disease was to kill and bury all infected cattle. That worked just fine, except in certain areas of France where burying diseased cattle did not prevent the spread of disease to new herds. What gives? What did the gods have against some farmers and not others?
Pasteur quietly amazed his colleagues by noting that areas where burying cattle did work were marked by chalky soils devoid of earthworms, and that areas where burying cattle did not work were marked by loamy soils with bountiful earthworm populations. He quickly proved that earthworms were physically transporting anthrax bacilli from buried cattle back to the surface to infect new cattle. Pasteur's brilliance was directly related to his living in a world of processes. There had to be a material process to explain the transport of anthrax bacilli across several feet of earth. Pasteur addressed the problem head on by overtly looking for the material mechanism beneath that process, i.e., earthworm traffic.
By answering "why" questions in a scientific context, Pasteur's generation of medical science provided a pan-cultural knowledge base relevant to all people on earth, independent of cultural background and without need of supernatural intervention. Disease comes of itself, with identifiable earthly causes and necessary (if inadvertant) human involvements leading to exposures, this knowledge providing the basis for preventive medicine and public health. We now know about the origins of human infectious disease on a global basis.
By observing the strands of process beneath the origins of life on earth, Darwin was following the trails of God's thought in producing a world view applicable to the origins of all people. By observing the strands of process beneath the natural history of human disease, Pasteur was following the trails of God's thought in producing a world view applicable to the health of all people. Pasteur did not live in a world of horrendous disease problems that left the people praying to the gods and begging for mercy. He lived in a world in which problems could ultimately be comprehended and controlled, entirely with human knowledge.
It is rather enlightening, therefore, to consider the thinking of Jesus within a scientific context, because doing so provides an image, not of a man with good supernatural connections, but of a man of science, an enormously insightful man who did His thinking in essentially the same ways as other notable and brilliant thinkers of His day. There is no need to invoke supernatural influences in order to comprehend the origins and purposes of His thought.
Jesus was a Hellenic Jew with ample room in his spiritual world for scientific thought, human knowledge and compassion. By the time Jesus was a young man, Greek approaches to formal scientific thought and the values of Greek democracy were long established, several centuries old in fact and available. The Greek libraries in Alexandria were not destroyed by zealous Romanized "christians" until the 4th century AD, after Constantine had perverted the message of Jesus right out of the JudeoRoman program.
Jesus, like Hippocrates before Him and Jefferson after Him, was a dialectition who based His further thought and action on the dialectic human values residing at the core of science, democracy and nascent Christianity. All three men saw the causes of human problems to be entirely earthbound. For Jesus, the causes of political violence and human misery were not supernatural in origin but the result of competing despotic political philosophies with God-awful values and priorities.
Accordingly, Jesus confronted both Judaism and Romanism, out loud and in public, pointing out the despotic nature of absolutism, the unjust nature of legalism and harsh penalism, the counter-productive nature of vengeance-based moralities, and the greed-driven, life-cheapening nature of marketplace values. These diagnostic efforts were entirely empirical and in full recognition of the spiraling nature of vengeance-based "moralities." Jesus offered instead a political philosophy born of human knowledge, honesty and compassion. For that contribution to a saneand honest political philosophy, He was silenced by those prefering to honor religious despotism and rule by the rich and powerful.
In nascent Christian philosophy is found the source of human rights, e.g., "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." (John 8:11). In nascent Christian philosophy is found the wisdom of separating church and state, e.g., "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are Gods." (Matthew 22: 21). In nascent Christian philosophy is found the "purest system of morals ever before preached to man ... calculated to heal and not to create differences," the core ethical morality upon which Jefferson constructed His Declaration and would have built American Democracy were it not for the supernatural religious right wing.
Implicit in nascent Christian philosophy is the concept that deity resides on the human inside, that god is defined by how we think and act. If we be blindly obedient, vengeful and self-righteous, then so goes our god. That is precisely why Jesus appealed, not to the heads of church and state, but to the heads and hearts of the people, requesting them to ground their spirituality in honesty and compassion. That is precisely why Jefferson appealed, not to the heads of church and state, but to the heads and hearts of the people, requesting them to ground their political philosophy in nascent Christian values and human rights. Both requested only that the people think for themselves and judge other's judgments using nascent Christian values as their standard.
The fact that the thoughts of Jesus can be analyzed like any other human thoughts, without recourse to supernaturalism, points to the profoundly human nature of the Christian message. Jesus was likely a small-framed, dark-complected, young Jewish man with faith and courage and knowledge that transcended that of both the Jewish and Roman empires. So sure was He of the spiritual content of dialectic human values, He was willing to die for them. In contrast, the Roman church built in His name three centuries later was willing to launch self-righteous, pre-emptive conquest in the name of those values. In Jefferson's mind, nascent Christianity had been "adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions [JudeoRoman supernaturalism] into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power ... perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, so as to constitute the real Anti-Christ."
Insofar as the thought of Jesus can be considered "divine" or "from God," then those same definers can be applied to all great thinkers, from Socrates and Hippocrates to Newton and Jefferson, from Lincoln and Pasteur to Einstein and Bohr. Insofar as the emergence of modern democracy, the abolition of slavery and the eradication of infectious disease can be considered blessings on this earth, then the God of Jesus can be found in the thought of healers like Jefferson and Lincoln and Pasteur and Koch. All thoughts and acts of deity on earth are human thoughts and human acts.
The humanness of Jesus cannot be denied. That His message was born of scientific thought with profound spiritual content cannot be denied. That His message was perverted by JudeoRoman supernaturalism for two millennia in support of self-righteous imperialism, colonialism and capitalism cannot be denied. That His message was enshrined by Jefferson and Franklin in their Declaration cannot be denied. That His message was perverted by Tory capitalism and ultimately placed in check (momentarily) by Republican crony capitalism cannot be denied. That all worlds are created by the human mind cannot be denied. That one of those worlds, the one we all live in, could be honest and caring and human cannot be denied.
Jesus came from the world of science, the world of intuitive and empirical/logical thought about the material world, a world that He could observe and interpret and comprehend. He developed a larger world view from which He could clearly comprehend the cultural causes of despotism and human violence, and what needed to be done on earth to set the world straight and pointing upward. To ascribe His insights to the gods is to denigrate the Man. His insights were not from Abraham's god or from Rome's gods, but from Science and the God within, our unconscious awareness that sees more and knows more about Life than we do. More than anything, Jesus was a man in touch with reality and in touch with Himself. Jesus is where the spiritually honest human mind begins, as Jefferson and Franklin knew full well.
Jesus lived in a world having no relationship whatsoever to the supernatural constructs which the JudeoRoman church employed to justify empire in His name. Implicit in that Romanized view, Jesus was second to god's Roman laws, the implication being that Jesus was a devout legalist/penalist who would never break God's laws and who enjoyed a good execution or a good war to spread the word and be "fisher's of men." In other words, Jesus was characterized most of all as a man in tune with the Roman church and in blind obedience to the Pope. In Roman eyes, Jesus became an ethereal spook, unattainable by mortals, worth a prayer but not to be seriously considered. Christian values were not to live by, they were to justify self-righteous conquest and control, in the name of Jesus, but in the interest of the rich and powerful. Is this not the same approach used by the Bush administration in promoting capitalistic right wing dominion on a global basis?
Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and their enlightened Christian friends brought Jesus down to earth two centuries ago in a flurry of scientific theology. In order to make Jesus real on earth, we must do likewise. We must accept the humanness of Jesus and the fact of His death. We must accept that He can only live now through the people (that would be you and me), and we must know that He is uniformly attainable, quite because of His humanness.
After two millennia of JudeoRoman fabrications and lies in the name of the rich and powerful, we must become Christian "in the only way He ever intended." (Jefferson) We must abandon supernaturalism, external authority, vengeance-based moralities, self-righteousness and choseness; and we must become citizens of Jefferson's Democracy, built upon the values of Science (human knowledge) and nascent Christianity (compassion). We must take our place, for the firs time, as a Democracy among Democracies, in the interest of human maturation and world peace.