CHRIST IS TEMPTED - says St. Mathew in the New Testament Chapter 4.

B.Premanand.

As per the New Testament - the Gospel according to St. Mathew, 3/16 when Jesus was baptized by John, he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him and a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Even inspite of the fact that the spirit of God had descended on Jesus he is tempted. He got hungry after fasting for forty days and nights.

In 27/46. Jesus looses his faith in God and cries aloud, "My God, my God, why hast though foresaken me?" Why did Jesus loose his faith in God? What was in his mind when he lost faith?

Does not this prove that faith in God, or the descending of God's spirit on oneself, even inspite of the belief he is the Son of God is not a protection against temptation?

What was Jesus tempted of when he blamed God for forsaking him? Jesus did not explain it, but we have a right to think of it and write about it and enact the scenes. It cannot be a blasphemy of Jesus or Christianity. It is a natural expression of what could have been in the mind of Jesus when he lost faith. If this would disturb the faith of the Christians as claimed by the church, their faith in God and Christ is woven around a flimsy thread without basis.

If Christianity cannot stand criticism and reason, then it is worthless. Only one Bishop, Bishop Mar Poulose had the courage to speak the truth:

"It appears to me that the play-wright is trying to find out the relevance of Christ in a particular human situation. In this search, for him, the human Christ is more important than the divine. In all the play, the basic teachings of Christ and his tenets emerge clearly.

The play does not characterise Christ as a debased person of low character. Rather it emphasises Jesus as a human person who goes through a struggle trying to find out his mission in the Palestine of his time, resisting his mother's hopes for him to live an ordinary family life and the pressure of his friends who want him to take up the sword for the cause of the liberation of Israel from the Roman Yoke. In other words, the temptation that Jesus faced, according to the play-wright, was not simply some kind of sexual infatuation as alleged by some, but whether he should get away from the call of God and submit to the persuations of his mother and friends. His mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Judas, Barabas and his home Nazareth - all these appear in the play as concrete forms of his temptations.

There is no hint whatsoever of an unholy relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene who is actually portrayed as a childhood friend and cousin. There is nothing in the play to even insinuate a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

In the play, Christ as a human being does not succumb to the common temptation of the flesh or filial feelings. Even if the play depicted Christ with sexual desire, I do not see any thing wrong in it. The Church teaches that Christ was God and man at the same time and that he had two natures, human and divine. If he had a human nature certainly he must have gone through human desires. The Gospels also speak clearly of him being tempted thrice by the devil when he was fasting in the desert - tempted with food, with power and wealth, and with an undue testing of God's powers (Luke 4: 1-13). The gospels also indicate at several places that Christ was hungry, needed sleep and that he suffered anguish when he was let down by his friends. However, what is important is not that Christ was tempted, but that he did not yield to temptation.

The Gospels are not the biography of Christ. The apostles and early Christians tried to put together what they have seen and heard, some times heard from secondary sources. Their purpose was not to write a biography but to give witness to their direct or indirect encounter with Christ. Therefore to say that the Gospels are the last word on Jesus is absurd. In the century David Friedrich Strauss and in our own century Albert Schweitzer have tried to portray the life of Christ, using available sources and their own imagination. Many followed their cue. There is no one commonly accepted biography of Christ. To use one's imagination and to interpret one's understanding of Christ should not be the monopoly of a particular group of people. Christ is not the monopoly of any. The play wright is also using his freedom to share his understanding of the life of Christ through the medium of dramatic performance.

The play gives us an opportunity to enter into a healthy debate in the field of politcal ethics, and particularly on the question of the relationship between love and justice. In a pluralistic society such as we have in India, everyone should have the freedom to hold on what seems to be true to him and propagate it through various media, but never to impose it on others. If the church has divergent views about the drama they should create a climate in which issues can be debated, and not all prey to undue passion. We solve a problem not by suppressing it, but by encountering it in a healthy way and responding to it in a decent manner. This should be applicable in the case of the play under consideration.

It is true that in the play sometimes Jesus is being addressed as devil, satan, traitor etc. But when we view the drama as a whole, these derogatory remarks do not sound awkward in the light of the dramatic power of expression, and it does not undermine Jesus' unique personality. On the contrary it only upholds his glory and majesty. Moreover, it is Judas, Barabas etc., who address Jesus with these vulgar terms, and upon hearing it the viewer gets an avertion to them rather than to Jesus. Judas, and Barabas have traditionally been considered as men of low quality, and what else one can expect of them! No one takes their appraisal as the last word upon the character of Jesus.

The play should be evaluated not only on the basis of sentiments and religious overtones, but also on the basis of its social merits. Corruption and injustice found in the religious circles are brought out by the play-wright in a humorous way. This critique of religion makes the play most relevant and contemporaneous. Critique of religion is not alien in the words and works of Jesus, A typical example of this is his cleansing of the temple which is powerfully expressed in the drama. Jesus' righteous indignation and urgency to eradicate the causes of horrifying social injustice are quite evident through out his ministry. He called the pharisees hypocrites and "whitewashed tombs" because they were more concerned with ritual purity and ceremony than they were with justice and mercy. The establishment of the church may not appreciate this criticism, because they prefer that its saints remain humble, and not fool around with structures of injustice.

The play is an honest and frank attempt by an ordinary, middle-class, rural play-wright, with all his limitations, to delineate the human dilemma and self-realization of Jesus. Compared to present day performances of professional theatric groups of Kerala this play is above average. It even goes to the merit of the play that it does not follow some of the tendencies found in modern dramas to denigrate human dignity.

To me the play is not profane, blasphemous, sacrilegious or offensive: and I respectively submit that a ban will constitute an unwarranted restriction on artistic and cultural freedom."

We find that our State and Central Governments irrespective of being right or left, nor the Indian Judiciary had the courage to uphold our constitution, and have fallen a prey to the manipulations of the Fandamentalists by banning the play "The Sixth Secred Wound of Christ".

Though American government is considered to be fundamentalist they had the courage to uphold their constitution and allow the film "The Last Temptation of the Christ" to be shown in the theatres and nothing untoward happened. The government was not afraid of the election results.

The sex-escapades of the evangelists like Jim Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Marvin Gorman and in our country, Sai Babas', Sadachari's and Father Ravi for their sex murders do prove that faith or belief in god cannot change a person. That it is the need of the individual to live in peace and harmony with others that build up the moral codes and ethics and it is the duty of any government and the judiciary to uphold Law, Justice and the Constitution. When will we get a government and a judiciary who will not run away from their duty and protect our constitution?

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OR IF THE GOVERNMENT WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A BLASPHEMY LAW WOULD THEY BAN ALL THE RELIGIOUS SCRIPTURES WHICH CALL OTHER RELIGIOUS FOLLOWERS VULGAR NAMES - UNPRINTABLE AND INSTIGATE THEIR PEOPLE TO VIOLENCE?

THIS IS NOT THE ONLY OR THE LAST TEMPTATION, BUT ONE OF THE INNUMEROUS TEMPTATIONS OF THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST!


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Gerald_Huber@r.maus.de

Last update: 1 July 1998