Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Four Gospels

I just concluded the Four Gospels. I am now to write a paper on the course those that know me say it should be easy for me. Many moons ago I sat in a classroom for two years being taught this same course, only from the prospective of the founder of my religious denomination, one that I was not to question their teaching. This Four Gospels Course was all questioning, designed to make you question preconceived notion that you may or may not have. To bring away a personal prospective, it is well written and easy to understand. I took this course looking for some answers, I found some and I found some more questions to take a deeper look into.

Our Christian Bible is a Jewish book born out Judaism. At the time of Christ there was no such religion as Christianity; Jesus was a Jew, as were Peter, James, John, Andrew, Mary Magdalene, and Paul all twelve of the chosen were Jewish. Christianity accepts the fact of only one being a Jew Judas Iscariot.

Jesus was a Galilean Jew and lived his entire life within the boundaries of Judea, the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel an area now divided between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and, in a few geographical definitions of Judea , Jordan. Historians and Four Gospels generally describe Jesus as an itinerant preacher and leader of a religious movement within Judaism. The followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic Jewish sect during the late Second Temple period of the 1st century. Some groups that followed Jesus were strictly Jewish, or those strongly attracted to Jewish practice, including the church leaders in Jerusalem. The Roman Centurion Cornelius is the first Gentile (non-Jewish) convert Paul of Tarsus, after his legendary incident on the Road to Damascus, he had success in proselytizing among the Gentiles.

According to biblical reconstruction, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, taught in parables and aphorisms, challenged pious traditions, legalism and social hierarchy. Is that what we who are Christians are doing in the Universal Life Church -- challenging the established church? Is that challenging pious traditions, legalism and social hierarchy the reason some say that we are not Christian enough? It is not until we throw of the chains of oppression of fundamentalism and legalisms of today’s church will we find the freedom in Christ.

What the Church does not tell you is during Jesus' time and for 20 years after his death; converts to the Christian sect of Judaism were required to convert to Judaism first to become Christians. The very fact then becomes Jesus was Christianity's greatest spokesman, but not its originator.

As such I study the course through Midrash a modifying adjective, Midrashic. For me the Four Gospel Course drove me deeper into the course than ever before. Do you know how delighted I was when my eyes were opened to a simple fact that I missed so many times. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is a midrashic creation! The name Zechariah stemmed from the fact John had been identified with prophet Malachi, whose immediate predecessor in the Bible was the prophet Zechariah!

The more I study the Four Gospels I personally question and I am challenged by the concept of the Trinity. I can not find it any where in the Four Gospels. Neither of the words "Trinity" nor "Triunity" appear any where in the Old Testament or New Testament. The Old Testament depicts God as the father of Israel and refers to divine figures such as Word, Spirit, and Wisdom. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God is one, and the Godhead a single being. "Hear, O Israel : The LORD our God is one LORD" Deuteronomy 6:4. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" Deuteronomy 5:7 “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel and his redeemer the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." Isaiah 44:6

The New Testament does not use the word "Τριάς" (Trinity) nor explicitly teach it. Jesus and his followers I did not believe intend to contradict the Jewish Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel : The Lord our God is one Lord" Deuteronomy 6:4

I know some of you may or may not understand at this point of what I am talking about but this part of the course is troubling to me. I would love to get my hands on an out of print book written by Michael Goulder, Midrash and the Lection in Matthew. I now find myself questioning the existence of what some call the Q document because I now see Luke and Matthew are to be understood liturgical and lectionary books. I find some of the themes of Exodus in both Matthew and in Mark. I also see examples in Mark and Matthew of Genesis being a guide for these narratives.

The more I read the Four Gospels I find Christianity to be one way to God not the only way. I find words like ALL and NOTHING being used. Matthew 11:28”come to me all” said the Christ of God. That is an invitation for all to seek God through his or her faith even those of other faiths through their faith. I see infinite inclusiveness of the God whose invitation is not selective. I see the love of God “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39. Nothing and all must mean nothing and all.

Rev Linda Miskimen


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