This article is about the philosophy encompassing the teachings of Jesus. For the Catholic religious order known as the Jesuits, see Society of Jesus.

Jesuism, also called Jesusism or Jesuanism, is a term for the teachings of Jesus in distinction from perceived differences with the Christian religion.

Jesuism is distinct from and sometimes opposed to mainstream directions.[1] In particular, the term is often contrasted with the theology attributed to Paul of Tarsus and mainstream church dogma.[2][3] While not being opposed to the Christian Bible or Church doctrine, Jesuism does not affirm their authority over the teachings of Jesus. As a philosophy, Owen Flanagan characterized Jesuism as naturalistic and rationalist, rejecting the conflict between faith and science.[4]

Many New Testament scholars have tried to identify Jesus' authentic sayings and actions; Géza Vermes, in particular, in his The Authentic Gospel of Jesus identifies what elements of the synoptic gospels are attributable to Jesus.[5]


The term "Jesuism" was coined by the late 1800s. It is derived from "Jesus" (Jesus of Nazareth) + "-ism" (English suffix, a characteristic or system of beliefs, from French -isme, Latin -ismus, Greek -ismos).[6][7]

History of usage

Carl Heinrich Bloch's rendition of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which is central to the philosophy of Jesusism.

In 1878, freethinker and former Shaker D. M. Bennett wrote that "Jesuism", as distinct from "Paulism", was the gospel taught by Peter, John and James, and the Messianic doctrine of a new Jewish sect.[8] In 1894, American pathologist and atheist Frank Seaver Billings defined "Jesusism" as the "Christianity of the Gospels" and a philosophy which "can be attributed directly to the teachings of Jesus the Nazarene".[9][10] In 1909, the Seventh-day Adventist newspaper Signs of the Times, in an issue titled "Modern Christianity Not Jesusism", the question is posed: "Christianity of today is not the old original Christianity. It is not Jesusism, for it is not the religion which Jesus preached. Is it not time to make Christianity the religion which He personally preached and which He personally practiced?"[11] Harvard theologian Bouck White, in 1911, also defined "Jesusism" as "the religion which Jesus preached".[12] Lord Ernest Hamilton in 1912 wrote that "Jesuism" was simply to love one another and love God.[13] The philosophy of Jesusism was described in the book The Naked Truth of Jesusism from Oriental Manuscripts, penned by theologian Lyman Fairbanks George in 1914, as follows:

It is to restore Jesus' sayings to their original purity.
It is to eradicate from the Gospels the interpolations of the Middle Ages.
It is to relate the misconceptions revealed by recent archaeological research.
It is to present Jesus from an economic viewpoint.
It is to break through the spell spectral of Cosmic Credulity.
It is to toll the knell of schism through Jesusism.[14]

The Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov further noted in 1935 that "the concentration of piety on the Christ alone has become a deviation already known by a special term as Jesusism".[15] Influential Catholic theologian Karl Rahner referred to "Jesusism" as a focus on the life of Jesus and attempts to imitate his life, as opposed to a focus on God or the Christian Church.[16] University of Melbourne professor Lindsay Falvey noted in 2009 that "the gospel story so differs from Church doctrine that it could well be of a different religion – Jesusism".[17] Jesusism became the subject of increased academic discussion following its reference by Duke University neurobiologist and philosopher Owen Flanagan in his 2007 book The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World.[18] Flanagan defines Jesusism as the "message" of Jesus and notes that he "call[s] it ‘Jesusism’ because most Christian Churches do not endorse Jesus’ message truthfully".[1] Rodney Stenning Edgecombe, a professor at the University of Cape Town, in a 2009 essay titled Communication Across the Social Divide remarks how Christianity shifted away from Jesuism; the moral tenets Jesus preached.[19] The terms Jesuism, Jesusism and Jesuanism are also referenced popularly on religious blogs and internet groups.

Beliefs, practices, and adherents

There is no definitive meaning of Jesuism and hence no clear ideology. However, Frank Seaver Billings described "Jesusism" as a combination of anarchism and communism (see anarchist communism and Christian anarchism).[7][20][21] Billings, an American atheist and materialist, was critical of all religion, including Jesuism.[9][22]

Various groups use the terms Jesuism, Jesusism and Jesuanism. These include disenchanted Christians who are critical of institutional religion or Pauline Christianity, people who identify themselves as disciples of Jesus rather than Christians, Christian atheists who accept Jesus' teachings but do not believe in God, and atheists who are critical of all religion including Jesuism. Adherents may be termed Jesuists, Jesusists or Jesuans.[23]

See also


  1. 1 2 Owen J. Flanagan. The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. p.36
  2. Edgar Dewitt Jones. Paul the Stranger. Abilene: Voice of Jesus, 2003 (online transcription).
  3. Douglas J. Del Tondo. Jesus' Words Only. San Diego: Infinity Publishing, 2006. p.19
  4. Owen J. Flanagan. The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. p.263
  5. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. Geza Vermes. Penguin Books. 2003
  6. D. M. Bennett (1878). "Champions of the Church: Their crimes and persecutions". pp. 119–124. Paulinism versus Jesuism
  7. 1 2 Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. pp. 42 and 43. Jesusism, which is Communism, and not Christianity at all as the world accepts it...Jesusism is unadulterated communism, with a most destructive anarchistic tendency
  8. D. M. Bennett. The Champions of the Church: Their crimes and persecutions. p. 84. The Progress of Jesuism
  9. 1 2 Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. p. 231. Emphatically I affirm, not my belief, but my certain knowledge. There is no God
  10. Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. p. 42. Jesusism, or the Christianity of the Gospels, which we think can be attributed directly to the teachings of Jesus the Nazarene...There is but one standard to follow; that is, the utterances directly attributed to Jesus, particularly the celebrated Sermon on the Mount.
  11. "Modern Christianity Not Jesusism." Signs of the Times Vol. 24 No. 25. Melbourne: Signs Publishing Company Limited, June 21, 1909.
  12. Bouck White. The Call of the Carpenter. USA: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1911. p.314.
  13. Lord Ernest Hamilton (1912). Involution. pp. 169 and 180. Jeusism
  14. Lyman F. George. The Naked Truth of Jesusism from Oriental Manuscripts. George Company, Pittsburg, 1914. p. 31
  15. Sergius Bulgakov. The Orthodox Church. London: Centenary Press, 1935. p.102
  16. Declan Marmion, Mary E. Hines. The Cambridge companion to Karl Rahner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p.166
  17. John L. Falvey. Buddhist-Christian dialogue: Four Papers from the Parliament of the World's Religions. Melbourne, 2009. pp.10-12
  18. Mark R. Alfino. "Spring 2010 Senior Seminar Note 7.3.1. Jesusism?" Spokane: Gonzaga University, 2010.
  19. Rodney Stenning Edgecombe (2009). "Communication Across the Social Divide". p. 33. Christianity derives from the Greek adjective "christos" ("anointed")…This shifted focus from what he preached (moral tenets that ought properly to be called "Jesuism") to what subsequent commentators, Paul of Tarsus among them, made of his violent death
  20. Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. p. 209. Taking the gospels as our only possible authority, it cannot be denied that Jesusism and anarchism are almost identical
  21. Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. p. 54. If there ever was an anarchist on Earth the gospel Jesus was one
  22. Frank S. Billings (1894). "How shall the rich escape?". Arena Publishing. p. 84. Materialist though I am
  23. The YWCA magazine, Volumes 66-67. 1972. p. 46.
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