Chapter Seven Jesus Christ -the facts and fiction
ABOUT 25 YEARS AFTER CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION, A SCHISM OCCURRED IN THE MOVEMENTS THAT WERE TO FORM WHAT WE KNOW AS PRESENT-DAY CHRISTIANITY. THIS WAS A RESULT OF ST. PAUL’S VERSION OF CHRISTIANITY BECOMING THE MORE WIDELY ACCEPTED FORM OF THE RELIGION. THERE IS NOW NO TRACE OR WRITINGS OF THE OTHER FORM WHICH WAS, IN FACT, THE ONE THAT JESUS CHRIST’S FAMILY AND FRIENDS WERE MEMBER’S OF.
Paul was born in Turkey. His parents were wealthy and Jewish. He also happened to be a citizen of Rome which occupied Palestine at the time. This was to prove crucial in the development and success of his version of Christianity.
The leader of the other faction, the Jesus movement, was James, who is widely believed to be the eldest of Christ’s four brothers. Despite his strong relationship with Jesus, James does not appear anywhere in the New Testament during the narration of Christ’s life and appears only after his death. He was as orthodox a Jew as was possible. It was said that he spent so much time praying that he developed “camel’s knees.” On the death of Jesus he became the head of the Jerusalem Church.
Paul was a persecutor of Christians until his vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. He positioned himself to become one of the major Christian leaders. However, unlike St. Peter who was a bona fide disciple of Jesus and who was considered to have founded the Roman Catholic Church as Rome’s first bishop, Paul never actually met Jesus.
Despite this, however, he was convinced that his views on Christianity were correct. After all, he had received his message spiritually in a vision whereas James and the rest of his _family had only known Jesus personally! Paul thought that to compensate for having persecuted Christians, he would devote the rest of his life to spreading Jesus’ word throughout the world.
Unfortunately his ideas conflicted seriously with those of James. They could not agree on Jesus’ birth, his message and whether or not he was divine.
After Christ’s death there was considerable debate on Christ’s actual identity. As we saw in Chapter Five on Constantine the Great, the Arians (led by Arius) believed that he was simply a man who had been born of a woman in the normal way. For this heresy, they were eventually exiled. Jesus was not the only healer and miracle worker of his day. But it was only he who spoke of the kingdom of God. When Jesus asks Peter who he thinks Jesus is, Peter replies that Jesus is the Messiah. To Peter this meant that Jesus was the King, the one who had been anointed as had all kings who descended from the Davidic line. He recognized that Jesus’ role was to liberate the Jews from the Romans and bring about a state of heaven on earth. The meaning of the word Messiah in the first century was quite specific and meant one who would defeat God’s enemies and bring back God’s justice. The word Messiah comes from ancient Egyptian. The Egyptians used crocodile fat, which symbolized sexual prowess, when anointing their kings. The Egyptian word for “crocodile” is “messeh.’
James considered that Paul was destroying the good inherent in the message. Paul had allowed Gentiles (non Jews) to join his movement with no regard for Jewish law. For example, James felt that the Gentiles should observe such fundamental tenets as eating only kosher food and circumcision. They were, however, under no obligation to do so according to the doctrine promoted by Paul.
In about 50 AD, the dispute reached the point at which it had to be resolved. James and Paul met to discuss their differences. James insisted that the Gentiles should eat kosher food if they were in the presence of Jews. Paul was indignant and saw this as an outrageous encroachment on his and his followers’ freedom. He referred to James and his followers as his “enemies in the Church.” Eventually Paul, who comes across in all accounts as being on the hysterical side, agreed to a compromise: that the Jesus Movement would remain Jewish in principle, but non-Jews would be allowed to eat non-kosher food and not have to be circumcised.
For the next few years Paul continued delivering his message throughout the Roman Empire to the Gentiles. He promised to leave the James led faction of the movement well alone.
Then James started hearing stories about Paul.
Furious, James summoned Paul to Jerusalem in 58 AD. Paul had not been back to Jerusalem for a long time and we can imagine his apprehension •of the potential danger he was in. Because of this, he had come well-prepared with a sizeable financial contribution. But this had little effect on James. He angrily dismissed Paul’s offer of money, accusing him of encouraging Jews to break Jewish law as Paul had told them that they need not .observe it any longer. Paul was unable to deny the charges, but he did try to assure James of his loyalty. James, rather naively, asked Paul to prove this by going to the Temple to take part in the purification ceremonies. Paul must have rubbed his hands at what appeared to be an easy way out and agreed to it immediately. Manipulative liar to the last, he freely admitted in one of his letters that he was all things to all men: “I am a Greek to the Greek, a Jew to the Jew, a law-keeper to the law-keeper, and will do whatever I have to do to win.”
Other Jews were not as gullible as James and they recognized Paul’s hypocrisy. They rioted in protest, and in the melee that ensued, Paul pulled out his trump card, declaring himself to be a Roman citizen. This meant the Roman soldiers were obliged to rescue him from the clutches of the angry mob.
Our perceptions of Jesus are all drawn from the information that has been passed down to us directly from this one man, Paul, and filtered through him. He influenced the writing of the four gospels with a decidedly political spin, giving the impression that there was no such thing as Jewish patriotism. Most scholars believe that the gospels emanated from the Pauline epistles in particular, and were all written after Paul’s death. According to Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi’s essay, The Influence of the Pauline Epistles Upon The Gospels of The New Testament: Study and Criticism, “Paul is also claimed to be the author of the Epistles to the Romans, 1 and 2, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2, Thessalonians, 1 and 2, Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews.”This meant that he wrote all of the New Testament except for the gospels, which were based upon his writings.
The Romans are hardly mentioned in the gospels -odd considering that there was so much ongoing Jewish resistance against the Romans at the time. However, bear in mind that the word “gospel” means “good news” which could also be interpreted as “propaganda.” Paul’s intention was to create a religion that was non-Jewish, inoffensive, palatable and digestible throughout the Roman Empire.
Palestine at the time of Jesus was a boiling, angry place subjected to the evil horrors of the Roman occupation. The Romans invaded about 60 years before Jesus’ birth and punished the Jewish insurrection with thousands of crucifixions. The Jews conducted a full-scale rebellion against the Romans in 66 AD, and this struggle lasted until 74 AD. At Masada, at the south-western corner of the Dead Sea 960 Jewish men, women, and children committed suicide, after holding out against the Romans long after the rest of Palestine had been crushed. The area of Galilee, where Jesus came from, was governed by Herod Antipas, a cruel and sadistic despot. The only Jews that prospered were the collaborators. The Jewish peasants lived in abject poverty and great fear. The Dead Sea scrolls that were found at Qumran in 1947 are strongly militant and indicate the desire to eradicate Romans throughout their Empire.
According to the Pauline version of history, Jesus was the son of God and not man. The real story had to be rewritten therefore, and meant that he had to be born of a virgin. Matthew wrote his gospel based upon the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a child.” Meanwhile, inconveniently, James, the leader of the now defunct Jerusalem Church was continuing to relate stories of his ordinary childhood with Jesus in the family home to anyone willing to listen.
The Pauline faction recognized that it was important to spread the story that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as that is where David had been born and where it had been prophesized that the next Messiah should come from. A reason had to be found for Mary and Joseph to be in Bethlehem for the birth. The New Testament tells us that Mary and Joseph had to be there as a
C result of there being a Roman census at that time. There is no such census on record. It is also doubtful that Jesus was from Nazareth as no records appear of a town by that name at the time. The confusion may have arisen from the name of the Nazarene or Nazarite sect of which Joseph was a member. Also, the modern Arabic word for “Christians” is Nasrani and the Christians are referred to as Nasara or Nazara.
Undoubtedly, the real Jesus Christ was a very different figure to the images that have come down to us from the Pauline camp. He was a revolutionary whose purpose was to get the Romans out of his land. His concepts of religion and politics blended together to achieve this end.
After John the Baptist was executed, Jesus recruited his own disciples. These without doubt included Mary Magdalene. She was to stand by him for the rest of his life. The Gospels say that it was she who went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint him. The debate on whether she was, in fact, his wife, is covered in Chapter Eight, but we should establish now that it would only be acceptable for a wife to carry out this procedure.
Paul did not recognize that Jesus’ role as King was to liberate the Jews from the Romans. To him the word “Messiah” meant that Jesus was the son of God who had come down to earth to die on the cross to redeem man. Jesus had not filled the role of Messiah as had been expected of him as he had not delivered his people from oppression, but through his resurrection he effectively redefined the term. His followers believed that only God could have been responsible for the miracle of the resurrection. This meant that the term “Messiah” adopted a characteristic of someone who was divine.
The whole Messiah issue was highly inflammatory. The Romans had abolished the Jewish monarchy and therefore anyone who even hinted at making the claim to be the Jewish King was contravening Roman law at its highest level.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of an ass, as every King from the Davidic line had come to his coronation in this way from the time of King Solomon. The custom not only indicated the humility of the King, but was also a sign that he was a monarch who did not rule but served in true Messianic (later Merovingian) tradition.
Again according to tradition, Jesus entered on the day of the Passover. By following these customs, Jesus was leaving no room for doubt of his intentions. Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, was not the benign ruler that the New Testament would have us believe. He ruled with a merciless rod of iron and would have appreciated the potential explosiveness of
When Jesus entered the Temple and overturned the tables of the money lenders, it was not an attack on the Jews. It was the Romans who were in ultimate charge of the Temple, although it was the House of God as far as the Jews were concerned. What it represented was the center of the collaboration that occurred between the Romans and some Jews. The attack upon it was therefore an attack upon . the Romans. The incident alarmed the Roman authorities who realized how the problems Jesus was causing were escalating out of control.
Another misconception that we have been fed is the supposed betrayal of Jesus by Judas. It would have been self-destructive for Judas to have done so as it would have highlighted the fact
that he was a disciple of Jesus. The reason he was chosen for this role is the close association that his name has with the Jewish people who were accused of being responsible for
condemning Jesus, an anti-Semitic ploy.
The New Testament tells us that Jesus was tried first by the Jewish priests for the blasphemy of calling himself the son of God. Then he was tried by the Romans for subversion and Pontius Pilate was persuaded by the Jews to execute him. In the eyes of the New Testament, it is the Jews who conspired against Jesus. That flies in the face of not only history, but logic. It was the Romans who executed their victims by crucifixion the Jewish punishment for blasphemy, of which we are led to believe they found him guilty, was stoning. One of the purposes of crucifixion was that the bodies were left hanging to be eaten as carrion by vultures and dogs to act as a visible form of Roman justice. This also meant, of course, that tombs were neither necessary nor used. In fact, out of the many thousands of crucifixion victims in the area at that time, only one crucified skeleton has ever been found.According to the New Testament, an exception to this
rule was made in Jesus’ case.
The most significant aspect of Jesus ‘ life, as far as Paul was concerned, was his death and resurrection. Therefore details of his life are scant and have not had to stand the test of time
in order to uphold the Pauline tradition. On the other hand, to the Jerusalem Church, Jesus’ death was a sign of failure. However, Jesus’ followers believed that he was resurrected
and therefore not dead. In their eyes he would continue his work of liberating them and restore the earth to the kingdom of God. There is no facility in Judaism for a human to be deemed divine.
As Paul’s story gained momentum, James and the other members of the Jerusalem Church were sidelined. They developed into a small sect known as the Ebionites by the second century and were regarded as heretics.
The Pauline church is now recognized as the precursor of all the various denominations of present-day Christianity. Ironically it is a 2000 year old example of the Darwinist and “unchristian” principle of the survival of the fittest. The New Testament has not come down to us intact. Some Gospels were discarded as they did not fit in with the “official line” of Christianity. The original conflicting gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have been translated and rewritten according to the fashion and political whims of the day. There are about five thousand manuscript versions of the New Testament in existence and none of them is from earlier than the fourth century. But some still believe that although the ancient handle and blade of the Christian axe have been replaced time and time again, we are still being shown the original, when this is demonstrably untrue.