Jewish Atheists, Hypocrites & BelieversVolume 3, Number 94
Created Date: June 18, 2015
Posted Date: June 18, 2015
The Word “Believe” in the Gospel of John - Part 20:
While reading an article on the internet recently I saw a link that took me to the web publication “Celebrity Tune” dated May 16, 2015 listing 46 celebrities quoted as claiming they are atheists: http://www.celebritytune.com/article/46-celebrities-you-wont-believe-are-atheists-video/1/. Among the avowed atheists are Lance Armstrong, George Carlin, Morgan Freeman and Bill Gates. But noteworthy for the purpose of this study are two quotes: “The Jewish-American comedian Sarah Silverman often uses religion as a punch line, saying she’s glad that the Jews killed Jesus, and she’d do it again in some of her sketches.” And, Paul Giamatti is quoted: “I consider myself an atheist. My wife is Jewish. And I’m fine with my son being raised as a Jew. He’s learning Hebrew and is really into it. I will talk to my own son about my atheism when the time is right. But there’s a great tradition of Jewish atheism, there are no better atheists in the world than the Jews.”
Whether Giamatti’s opinion represents today’s reality or not, it brings to mind that there is nothing specific in the NT identifying Jewish atheists at the time of Christ, when in fact the Jewish “religion,” if it can be called that, represented the only “system” or “way” anyone could have a relationship with God. That “system” or “way” began when God called Abraham out from the Gentile nations and made from him the Nation of Israel; God’s chosen people. Subsequently, through Moses, God gave Israel His Law and the only way anyone could have a relationship with and please God was to be a Jew (or Gentile proselyte) and follow the Law of Moses. The only other “religions” on earth from Abraham to a point in time recorded in the book of Acts were pagan in which people worshipped just about anything but God. During those many years, Gentiles were out in the cold, so to speak,. Jesus was born a Jew; He followed the Law of Moses to the letter, , and He came only to the Lost sheep of Israel, .
During His ministry Jesus Christ validated the responsibility and authority of Israel’s leaders: “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”. Sitting “in Moses’ seat” meant the Scribes and Pharisees were the official administrators of God’s Law. But at the same time, Jesus recognized they were hypocrites, identifying them as such a number of times, ; ; etc. The Greek word translated hypocrite in the New Testament (NT) is “hupokrites” which means literally “an actor under an assumed character.” It occurs 20 times in Matthew, Mark and Luke but nowhere else in the NT, and... the only person quoted as having uttered the word hypocrite is Jesus Christ Himself. (The Greek “hupokrisis,” which literally means “acting under a feigned part,” and is usually translated with our English word “hypocrisy” is used only 7 times, once each in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Galatians, 1 Timothy, James and 1 Peter.) So the Scribes and Pharisees were not atheists but they were hypocrites; they said one thing and did another. And thus Jesus set the bar above them “ ... That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” b.
The word “hypocrite” is not found in the Gospel of John; another indication the Gospel authors were inspired to record and emphasize specific things Jesus did and said, depending on the purpose God had for their particular accounts. Matthew presents Jesus Christ as God’s perfect King, Mark the perfect Servant and Luke the perfect Man and in those roles He is quoted as identifying the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites. On the other hand, the Spirit’s purpose in John’s Gospel was to reveal Jesus Christ as God Himself,; 14:6 - 11; 17:21 & 22. And thus we find in John the reason the Scribes and Pharisee’s’ were hypocrites; they didn’t truly believe Jesus was God’s Son, an indication they didn’t truly believe God; “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” . This begs the question of how could they not believe, in the true sense of the word, and yet represent God by serving Him in the administration of His law?
God chose Israel as His people, He ordained the Priesthood and God didn’t fail in His responsibilities; His people failed Him. Jesus told them: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”. See also , 5, 16, etc.
It must be noted that in spite of the failure of Israel as a whole, there were individual Jews who were true believers, John 1:50 & 2:11, etc. However, there is also reference to many Jews who believed on Him but Jesus did not believe them because He knew all and knew what was in their hearts,(the KJV translates the word normally translated “believe” as “commit” in verse 24). We covered the elements of belief in Volume 3, Numbers 76 & 77 so I’ll just summarize; true belief is more than verbal or mental assent. John’s Gospel identifies true believers in Jesus as having “received” Him and having been born of God, or from above, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” . To truly believe is to “receive,” “take,” “take unto,” “take up,” “take with,” etc. And, they were “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” . Jesus explained further: “... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (from above). The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” .” “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” ; “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” .
Jesus also told the Scribes and Pharisees who “sat in Moses’ seat” that they didn’t believe Moses. Inwe read the Jews sought to kill Jesus not only because they said He broke the Sabbath but that he said He was equal with God. Jesus ended His response to them: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” . To understand this we must remember that Moses’ Law required innocent animals be slaughtered and offered as sacrifices for the sins of those who brought them. This was meant to impress upon the person that they had indeed sinned and because of their sin, an innocent animal had to die. Those who took this lesson to heart saw themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. But many didn’t. Instead, they derived self-pride by going through the motions of offering sacrifices and tithes. In essence they were saying, “look at me, I’ve followed the law to the letter,” with the emphasis on “I.” “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” . True believers were those who understood Moses’ Law was a schoolmaster to bring them to realize their need for a Savior, .
In Romans 9 - 11 The Apostle Paul explains that Israel, the focus of God’s dealings, was set-aside for a time. That “set-aside time” has been about 2000 years now. And in spite of the teaching of many churches over the last 2000 years there has been and is no formal “religion” or “church” ordained to take Israel’s place as God’s representative. The Apostle Paul advises “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” . The Gospel for today is put succinctly: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: -4. Believing this Gospel today makes us Members of Christ’s Body, ; , 27; , 4:12, etc., and makes us Saints, ; ; , etc., which has nothing to do with being a member of any of the 1000’s of churches and denominations nor being bestowed sainthood by some earthly organization.