Today, in response to emails from visitors to my website and this blog, I’m providing some background for the on-going, never-ending religious arguments that are now threatening to set the world on fire.
Excerpt from Chapter 18 (“Of Promises and Previews”):
The Old Testament often speaks of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom in Israel, during the Messianic Age. At that time, God has promised to “...save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey...and I will set up one shepherd over them....” Then, “The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel...” (Ezek. 34:22–23, 37:28).
The Hebrew Prophets often spoke of that promised glorious kingdom, but they had little to say about the “one shepherd” of the kingdom. Evidently, they knew almost nothing about him, beyond the fact that out of Bethlehem “...shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days....” “And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock...in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God...for then shall he be great unto the ends of the earth...” (Micah 5:1,3).
Thus, from early times, Judaism focused on the kingdom that will flourish in the Messianic Age, while Christianity and Islam focused on the “one shepherd” of that kingdom — of whom the Jews knew practically nothing. The trouble that came from those two related but separate subjects quickly surfaced.
The Jews, convinced that Christians and Muslims followed false prophets, paid no attention to their teachings about the coming “one shepherd”: “the Messiah, Jesus,” as Muhammad identified him. And the younger monotheistic families, each convinced it had supplanted the fathers of their faith, paid little or no attention to the promised sanctification of Israel in the Messianic Age. In fact, aside from acknowledging “the Messiah, Jesus,” the Koran doesn’t speak of that Age; its future concern is with “the Last Day,” the Judgment Day of mankind (The Family of Imran 3:114).
As it was in those early years, so it is today. Believers revere their own family’s messages, as their clerics interpret them, and they dismiss, as false or obsolete, all teachings that do not conform to their own. As long as each family’s shepherds aggrandize their own understanding of their own teachings and besmirch the others, they cannot “...turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers...,” as Malachi warned must happen, if the world is to be spared “utter destruction” (Mal. 3:24/4:6). Nor can bitterly divided and self-aggrandizing believers inspire unbelievers to turn to the God Who has promised to bless “all the families of the earth” through Abraham (Gen. 12:2–3).