Is Jesus a mystic?

You claim that Jesus of Nazareth is a mystic. From the conversations so far, I presume that this is both your gut-feeling and conviction. The one deriving from your own mystical experience and the other because you find that mysticism, qua experience, does not distinguish between people on the basis of their color, creed, culture and country. I am perfectly willing to bow to authentic experience, but convictions? They need arguments and evidence, even if it is a subject as thorny as mystical experience. However, I will not ask you for your evidence but will try to present counter-evidence to your conviction.

1. In the first place, there were many messiahs during the period Jesus was anointed as the Christ. All of them, including Jesus of Nazareth, were dismissed as false messiahs by the Judaic traditions of that period. After Jesus, other mystics within Christianity did not call themselves ‘the anointed’. That is to say, Jesus must have been limited by the way Judaic religion looked at the world and other worldly events.

2. The evangelists record Jesus as saying that he has ‘been sent unto the lost sheep of Israel’ and not for the ‘humankind’. (Matthew 10.6-7; 15.24) In other words, whatever his ‘vision’ (or ‘experience’), he did not see it as something applicable to the whole of humankind.

3. He did not, at least according to the evangelists, send his apostles except “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and explicitly ‘forbade’ them to preach among the gentiles, i.e. non-Jews, and the Samaritans. (See also Matthew 10.6-7; Matthew 7.27, Matthew 7.6, Mark 7.27.) Of course, evangelists also ascribe other ‘more universal’ thoughts to Jesus Christ, but this is a problem for the Christian theologians, not for us.

4. Points 2 and 3 indicate that there is prima-facie plausibility to the claim that Jesus also saw himself as limited by the Judaic religion and its messianic expectation. That is to say, the teachings of Jesus is not only limited by the Jewish theology but that Jesus himself accepts this limitation.

5. Whatever his experience or vision, we have three objective constraints posed on any ‘interpretation’ of Jesus: (a) the messianic trend; (b) the Judaic theological confinement; (c) Jesus’ own acceptation of these limitations and his explicit instructions to the apostles. (I will not take exception to the comparison Jesus makes between non-Jews and swine and so on.) What I would like to know is this: how could any experience (or any vision) confined by these parameters could even remotely be called mystical? Along what lines would you want to compare the Indian version of mysticism with that of Jesus so that both appear as mysticisms?

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