I think that was an excellent summary. You are right to note that I would ask “which Jesus,” and your answer was quite adequate; especially when you add to the canonical Jesus the Jesus of Christian reflection, and the living Jesus revealed to you through the Holy Spirit.
To me this is code for “Jesus and I understand him.” If there was one way to understand the Gospels, if all reflecting Christians reflected in the same way, and if the Holy Spirit revealed the same Jesus to every Christian there wouldn’t be hundreds and hundreds of denominations of Christianity. So while I have no problem stating that your Jesus is an authentic Jesus, I also understand that your Jesus is YOUR Jesus, and that you do not and cannot speak for all Christians. Which, of course, is what makes this dialogue so fruitful—just two lovers of God trying to hear the Word and walk the Way.
As for me, I speak for no one but myself. When I think of Jesus, and I do so often, both as an adjunct professor of Western Religion who is called upon to teach classes on the Historical Jesus, and as a student of Wisdom which I think the historical Jesus embodies, I think of Jesus as a Lamed–Vavnik.
In Hebrew the two letters lamed and vav represent the number thirty-six. Jewish tradition holds that in every generation there are always thirty-six God-realized human beings on this planet who, in my words, recognize the interdependence of life, and the nonduality of God in, with, and as all things. Lamed–Vavniks live out that realization by applying justice, compassion, and humility to the ordinary circumstances of their everyday lives.
In addition, the number thirty-six is two times the number eighteen. Eighteen is represented in Hebrew by the letters chet and yud which spell the Hebrew word Chai, life. Lamed–Vavniks not only sustain their own lives but the life of the world; their righteous deeds tip humanity toward goodness, and thereby keep the world from imploding under the weight of human ignorance, anger, fear, violence, and greed.
Lamed–Vavniks are also called Tzadik Nistar, the Hidden Righteous, and rarely come to the attention of the public. They work quietly behind the scenes, just as Jesus attempted to do in many of stories told of him in the Gospels. But sometimes the hidden is revealed, and when a Lamed–Vavnik is forced into the public eye she or he is almost always seen as a danger to the powers that be. And this too is clear from the Gospels.
If I am correct, and Jesus was one of the thirty-six of his generation, the Sermon on the Mount may well represent one of the few clear articulations of the way of the Lamed–Vav. I realize the scholarly problems with the text. I understand that there is no compelling scientific proof that Jesus spoke these words, but like you, I am not overly concerned here with the historical Jesus. Of course we need to place the Sermon in its historical setting (or at least the historical setting assumed by Matthew, the only writer to record this talk by Jesus). And, of course, we need to reference life in First–century Roman occupied Jewish Palestine. And yes, I believe Jesus lived, taught, and was crucified by Rome, but this Jesus is less important to me that the mythic Jesus, the teacher of Wisdom, the Lamed–Vavnik, who, once forced into the public eye, did not shrink from speaking Truth to power.
The question I will ask of The Sermon on the Mount is not “Did Jesus actually preach these words?” but “What is the meaning of the words themselves; and how do they guide me in the way of justice, compassion, and humility that is the heart of the Lamed–Vavnik?”
I have much more to say about Jesus, and I will allow that to come out as we talk. So let’s begin.