Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Was Jesus an Iconoclast?

revolution uprising

Huh? OK, it may have been a while since you had a basic philosophy course, so just as a reminder, an iconoclast is someone who delights in breaking down (clast) traditional symbols (icon). This usually refers to political or religious symbols. It began as a literal reference to destroying the monuments or idols of a country that was conquered. A recent example is the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Jesus certainly did some iconoclastic things. He told the Jewish leaders that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man, and proceeded to heal people on that sacred day.

He overturned the tables of the money changers, and claimed that he would destroy the temple. We now interpret this as a reference to his crucifixion, but those who first heard him thought he meant it literally. He called the ruling spiritual class whitewashed graves, and warned them that they needed to clean up the mess on the inside instead.

The term iconoclast has evolved to mean anyone who throws out traditional norms and imagery, basically someone who thinks way outside the box. In modern thought, sometimes an iconoclast really has no good idea of what might replace the old ideas or icons, but simply wants change in whatever form it may take.

Jesus was certainly not seeking change for its sake alone. He had a plan, a plan that had been set in motion by God the Father long before Jesus came to Earth.

Did he want to tear down the old idols? He clearly wanted to rid the Jewish religion of the “forms of righteousness” and replace them with the real thing. He challenged the orthodoxy of the day.

On the other hand, Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to throw out all old standards or imagery. Instead, he often quizzed people about what the law really meant, and boiled it down to its two key elements, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Was Jesus an iconoclast? I guess it depends on how you want to define the term. He brought sweeping reform, from an authoritative source, but not simply for the sake of undirected change. His “reforms” of the old ways of thinking, and of approaching God, changed the world forever.


Loretta said...

excellent post...well done. Think I may have to figure out a way to work it into my next SS lesson.

vanilla said...

--that we may come boldly to the Throne of Grace.

I really like this article, Joan.