Our book’s introduction should probably explain why we bothered put together yet one more publication with such a title.
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul explains in part why the Corinthians struggled so with the gospel message. At the end this explanation (verse 16), he uses the term “mind of Christ.” Much has been written on this, not a few books with that as the title. We can’t fault the scholarship of those who came before us, but it should be obvious to anyone, if we agreed with their work, we need not bother writing something fresh. It occurred to us Paul explained in that chapter of his letter something it seems so many people miss. Paul attacks the Western intellectual approach to understanding the world. (See my notes here.)
Paul could claim to have the mind of his Savior because they shared a common heritage. But more, they shared a common spiritual orientation built from that heritage. It’s no secret Paul had to throw away his very substantial position among the Sanhedrin to become a Christian, meaning literally, one who followed Christ. While both were nearly pickled in the intellectual ferment of the Pharisees of their day, they clearly rejected that approach to Scripture.
What was that Pharisaical approach? It was a mixture of Hebrew content and Hellenistic analysis. “Hellenism” is the common academic term referring to the intellectual assumptions of the Greco-Roman civilization of that day. Today it’s roughly equivalent to the term “Aristotelian,” a reference to Aristotle, the great philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great. During his years of conquest in that part of the word, circa 300 BC, Alexander was a hard core evangelist for the intellectual culture of the Greek intelligentsia, and the those people called themselves “Hellenes.” Thus, their intellectual legacy is Hellenism, and we can trace how the rabbinical scholars of that time embraced Hellenism. In so doing, they dismissed the ancient Hebrew intellectual approach. (See Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book I.) Thus, the religion of Judaism, and being Jewish in the religious sense, is not the same thing as the Old Testament religion of Moses.
That the two are quite different is too easily proven, and yet so often ignored by most modern Christian scholars. That is, those who are aware of this conflict seem to side with the Pharisees, seeing no problem with reading the entire Bible from that Aristotelian approach. It seems these scholars really do not understand how completely different it is, because they seem to ignore how Jesus Himself, and His followers such as Paul, rejected Hellenism in favor of the ancient Hebrew approach. While none of the New Testament writings use such terminology, it seems painfully obvious from how they expressed themselves they were favoring the Hebrew way over the Greek, even as they expressed Hebrew thoughts in Greek language. You’d have to ignore centuries of serious academic work to not see that, and even secular scholars can point it out.
We who write this book are left wondering why so few Christian writers today can offer an explanation of Scripture from this more Hebraic approach. As noted, it’s not out of reach, doesn’t require advanced degrees in Philosophy or anything like that. Further, there’s every reason to struggle for that understanding. This ancient Hebrew way is God’s own choice for His revelation. Indeed, not simply something He found and liked, but something He created Himself by whom He chose to build His nation and carry His message. So why do all those today claiming to offer God’s message eschew the ancient Hebrew approach? We have no idea, but we are determined not to continue in what seems an obvious mistake.
That Western scholars today use dismissive terms such as “mysticism” for this approach cannot be helped. It shares nothing with New Age beliefs or any other brand of mysticism. The term “mysticism” itself means simply non-rational inputs to our minds, to our knowing. The whole idea God can reveal something to humans is mysticism by definition. It assumes we can receive knowledge from a non-human, non-rational source. However, we are careful to choose the distinctive Hebrew form of mysticism.
Thus, we offer this different examination of what must have been the human side of our Lord and Savior. Paul claimed to have the mind of Christ because he had the Spirit of Christ living in him. Paired with that was a mind prepared to obey the Spirit by a proper frame of reference, building on the ancient Hebrew way Christ obviously promoted in His debates with the rabbis of His day. In that portion of the first Corinthian letter, Paul pointedly warns you cannot use human reason to get very far with this. You can’t let your mind run the show; it has to take direction from the Spirit-spirit communion which is far above the human intellect. While fallen men with dead spirits assume this means relying on sentiment or emotion, since it’s not intellect, we see Paul plainly says that’s not so. If your spirit is alive in Christ, you recognize something in you which may well stir emotions, but more importantly, decides things on a much higher moral frame of reference.
We who share the labor in this book wish to offer you our understanding of that moral frame of reference.
(Barring edits from my collaborators here on this blog, I propose this as the introduction to our book. The idea here is you put on your editor’s hat and help me state this most clearly. What seems obvious to me may not come across, and what should come across may be left out. Help me, folks, this is now open.)
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