“Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river.” –Rumi
I will conclude this series of considerations of the Jesus of faith versus the Jesus of history with Michael Baigent’s own words summarizing the journey we have taken through his provocative book The Jesus Papers — Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, words and thoughts that I fully embrace as resonant with my own spirit of understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus.
Here are Baigent’s final words from his book:
DURING THE COURSE of writing this book, I have sought out knowledge of a very special context – that of Egypt and Judaea in the first century of the modern era, a period about which there are few facts that we can be certain of. We have seen how the context can be controlled and forced to support a story that simply can’t be true. The Jesus of history cannot have been as the theology of the Jesus of faith presents him.
During the course of our journey, we have discovered that Jesus rejected the political activity of his Zealot supporters. This is a crucially important piece of information that has been missed. We have seen too that there is no evidence that he died on the cross; in fact, what evidence survives suggests otherwise. And if he didn’t die on the cross, where does that leave the resurrection? His divinity? His equality in the Holy Trinity? These claims all disintegrate once the spin stops.
We have discovered that all these assertions about Jesus came much later, the result of a glossy gift-wrapping of some historical events that were deliberately distorted in order to serve a strict theological agenda, one that maintains to the present day a number of extremely odd and eccentric notions. Foremost among these is the belief that only men were Christ’s closest disciples and so women cannot serve as priests, bishops, or popes. With this discovery, the male domination of the apostolic succession crumbles away, along with the Rome-centered concept of the succession itself.
And crucially, we have also discovered that there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus intended to be worshiped as a god. On the contrary, his teachings indicate that he wanted each person to have the opportunity to travel to the Far-World to find the Divine for himself or herself — or as he put it, to travel to the kingdom of heaven and be filled with the “Spirit of God.”
Where did Jesus learn all this? Not in Galilee, we have concluded, but much more likely in Egypt, where the Jewish community appears to have been more diverse than the Jewish community in Palestine and to have nurtured a more mystical approach to religion.
Furthermore, nothing in our findings suggests that Jesus ever planned to start a religion, let alone encourage others to write down his words and organize them into an official collection of sayings. In fact, quite the reverse is more likely I suspect that he wouldn’t have minded at all if people forgot him; what was more important to him was that people should not forget the way to the kingdom of heaven, a notion not restricted to Christianity and Judaism: “To be ignorant of the divine is the ultimate vice,” proclaim the texts attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus.
It should be clear now that history is malleable: we have our facts, but we never have enough of them to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say, in all honesty, that we know for certain what happened. All history is a myth, a story created to make some sense out of the few events we can know. The past is a hypothesis erected to explain and justify the present.
In some ways this does not matter, for myths exist to communicate meaning, not history. But in this scientific age we want to know that the myths we live by are, if not true, at least based upon some approximation of the truth. We want to know that Jesus was really crucified, that Caesar was truly murdered by Brutus, that Paul did have a mystical experience on his way to Damascus. All these events are plausible, and there is no intrinsic reason why they might not be true.
But what do we do with beliefs such as Jesus walking on water? Jesus having been raised from the dead? Peter founding the Roman Church with infallible popes? None of these beliefs is plausible, and there is no intrinsic reason why any of them should be true. Yet there are many who equally believe both sets of assertions.
Our modern world is dominated by the “religions of the book” Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. We can see that to base truth upon a written word makes it vulnerable to all the problems of interpretation and translation, to say nothing of religious distortion. The danger is that books foster a dependence upon belief rather than knowledge; if there has been one underlying theme of our journey, it has been that we need to travel the road for ourselves and experience its hardships, pleasures, and insights directly rather than secondhand or vicariously. (Bold emphasis mine)
And with that plea I must bring our journey to an end, not because there is no further to travel, for of course there is, but because we have traveled much already and it is now time to pause and reflect on just how far we have come.
As we halt, it only remains to quote the great Persian Sufi Jelaluddin Rumi, who, cutting straight to the heart of the matter, as was always his way, cried out to all who would listen: “Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river!'”
To drink from the river is our birthright. Let no one deny us that freedom!
There is no argument that the impact upon the entire world of humankind that the presence and ministry of this one man made is nothing short of a profound transformation and elevation of the human spirit and of human consciousness. I know this is true for me personally. Just to think of him and to read his words in my red-letter Bible stirs my soul and quickens my spirit. Jesus is alive today in the heart of humanity as truly as he was alive and physically present on earth two-thousand years ago.
I’ll leave you with this five-minute video clip by Dr. Bruce Lipton on how our beliefs direct our lives 95% of the time and how religious beliefs are programs and not reality. Believing in God is not the same as knowing God. To know God is to go beyond belief and to know your Self. That is the only reality we can know for certain: that I AM.
In my next post I will consider the Aramaic Prayer of Jesus and the direct access to Father and Mother God available to all human beings on Earth. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.
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