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god_father_guercinoOne of the first disadvantages of ignoring Christian history and of reading the Bible through the inspiration of whatever spirit one thinks inspires one, is it leads to repeating old mistaken readings of who God is. Christianity is a monotheistic religion. We, as Christians, believe in one God. This belief we inherit from the Jews – our older brothers in the Faith. But the first Christians, who were, for the most part Jews, and who prayed in the Synagogues, were thrown out of them because, to their fellow Jews, it looked as though they were polytheists. They baptised people in the ‘Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, and in confessing their founded, Jesus, as the Messiah, gave him equality with God. It was little wonder that many Jews thought such a statement blasphemous. Islam takes much the same position.

Our friend Bosco, who, as ever, does proxy for a whole range of beliefs along the spectrum of individual interpretation, is convinced that Jesus is the Father. As he put it in one comment:

 Ive said it millions of time here that Christ is the Father. i use the names interchangeably.

Bosco finds my reiteration of orthodox Christian belief a problem, and cannot quite believe me when I say He is not identical with the Father:

Do you still think Jesus isnt the Father?
I get it..you were pulling my leg. I guess i deserve it.

Bosco is convinced that Jesus is the Father, that they are one and the same. He is willing to admit: ‘True, one can say they are separate but the same. One is still saying that Jesus is the Father.’ He adds, with the pride of the ‘saved’:  ‘I had no idea that the pharisees in here didnt think Jesus is the Father. It proves my point that they are blind to scripture.’ Perhaps, or perhaps it proves the point I am seeking to establish here, that it leads the unwary to repeat some of the earliest misreadings of Christian teaching?

The question of who Jesus is lies at the centre of our relationship with Him; if we think He is other than He is, then we have a relationship not with Him, but with someone we have constructed from our reading of the Bible.

We need to remember that long before there was a written text, the Church founded by Jesus spread His word, and we know that long before there was any Canon, Christians had puzzled over how Jesus could be God and yet pray to God; how he could pray to the Father if the Father was God and He was God; and just what the relationship between Father and Son was. One answer was the one Bosco prefers, which is that Jesus is the Father, and when He prays to the Father or asks Him for help, He is really showing us how to pray, not doing something real. To the question of who was governing the Universe during the Incarnation, if Jesus is the Father, there has never been an answer, except that it is all a miracle. But what then of the idea that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father? At this point, Bosco has to abandon his usual literalist reading, as it makes no sense.

But he has no such need, because Christians have been there long before him. So, John 10:14:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

Jesus often emphasises that He speaks for the Father, and the Father speaks through Him, and that the one who has seen Him has seen the Father; but not once, not anywhere, does He say He is the Father. So we have the irony that Bosco, the most literalist reader, tells us something Jesus never said. As so often, Bosco is reading into the Bible something that is not there in order to justify a reading he claims is literalist, but is nothing of the sort. So, if Jesus saying He and the Father are ‘one’ is not the same as Jesus saying ‘I am the Father’, what does it mean?  It was precisely that problem Christians wrestled with from the beginning. Bosco, like too many modern Christians, especially those claiming to have been given a new spirit, neglects these lessons, and in so doing, repeats mistakes.  How did the early Church deal with this issue?