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The “Jesus of History” . . . . Vs The “Jesus of Faith” . . . . Part 2: The “Missing years”

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Eighteen years of Jesus’ life are not accounted for in the four Canonical Gospels. The last we hear of his early childhood is the alleged story about him debating with the chief priests and elders in the Temple of Jerusalem at the age of twelve. Where he went after that is a question that has given rise to much scholarly speculation.

Religious historian Michael Baigent has a very intriguing chapter on the missing years of Jesus’ life in his book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. Digging deeply and tenaciously into whatever ancient texts and oral traditions he could find—the most resourceful being those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written by the Jewish Zadokites and Zealots in Egypt, where they were found around 1947-56, and the Nag Hammadi texts discovered south of Cairo in Egypt in 1945—Baigent places Jesus in Egypt where he receives his messianic training in the Egyptian Mystery Schools.

It is in Egypt, Baigent suggests, where Jesus received training in the ancient rituals of Egyptian mysticism that opened heaven’s gate for passage into the Underworld—the “land of the dead,” which was thought more to be the “land of the living”—and re-entry into the physical plane.  Bagent suggests that Jesus was initiated into these mysteries whereby, with the assistance of fellow initiates who attended to the physical body during the soul’s out-of-body journey, one could die to this world, visit the realm of the gods and obtain wisdom, then be resurrected from the “dead.” Not entirely without historical support for his scenario, Baigent’s speculation is quite conceivable and compelling, especially knowing what we know today about “near death experiences” (NDE’s). Was Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection akin somehow to an NDE? Let’s have a look and decide for ourselves whether or not Baigent’s scenario is in the least bit credible, perhaps even likely.

(This is a dense and complex consideration with many political and religious threads weaving through the fabric of the story. I will attempt to condense it into two or three installments. Encompassing the larger part of Jesus’ thirty-three years of life as recorded by the four Gospel writers, it is perhaps the most crucial and important period, as it was his formative years of preparation for the three-and-a-half years of his public ministry, which ended in his personal victory over death—which was the sole interest of the Gospel writers, though not the sole reason and purpose for Jesus’ life and mission, as we will see.)

Where did Jesus live as a young man?

According to three of the four Canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus was living in the town of Nazareth in Galilee in his youth. Luke says that Jesus grew up there and that he went with his family every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was on one of those occasions that he was found debating with the learned scholars in the Temple. “Unfortunately,” Baigent writes, “there is no evidence whatsoever that Nazareth even existed in Jesus’ day.” Then, as is his style when he comes upon an inconsistency such as this, Baigent’s critical thinking and suspicions kick in. I love the manner in which he goes about questioning everything handed down as history. Here’s a taste of his reasoning and compelling writing:

The first mention of it appears no earlier than the third century A.D. Could this mention of an exchange at the Temple have been placed here as some kind of cover story for a period in Jesus’ life that was otherwise unaccounted for?

As far as the Gospels were concerned, Jesus appears to have vanished during his youth and early adulthood. But it was during those years that he learned the ideas, the beliefs, and the knowledge that he later taught. So where exactly was he? And why have his whereabouts been kept hidden? Had he been “talent-scouted” by priests or rabbis and whisked away for almost two decades of secret training? Surely the disciples must have known where Jesus had been. But what could have possibly been at stake, what problem could have arisen, through sharing this information? In fact, we cannot avoid asking, what were the writers of the Gospels intent on concealing?

Scholars over the years have speculated about this gap in the account of Jesus’ life. Some believe that Jesus traveled with his family to the East,

“far beyond the jurisdiction of the Romans, to Parthia, Persia, or beyond, to Afghanistan, or India. Even today there are many who believe that the shrine of Yus Asaph in Kashmir is that of Jesus himself who, after surviving the crucifixion, returned home to the East to live and ultimately die. There are also suggestions that he studied as a child under Buddhists—this would explain, it is said, the parallels that can be found between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Buddha. And we have the very early Christian community, centered in Malabar on the west coast of India, which claims to have been founded by the apostle Thomas. Surely where Thomas went then so too could Jesus have gone?

Is it possible that the Great Spirit who incarnated in Jesus is the same Divine Being who was also incarnate in the Buddha some six-hundred years earlier in Nepal, India?  Well, that’s getting a little ahead of the current story. There was no reason for Jesus to have fled Roman jurisdiction as he was not involved in the Zealot’s revolutionary activities against the Romans. Baigent reasons:

Any move he made out of Judea or Galilee must have been by choice rather than by coercion. But where could he have ventured, and why?

There is a single clue in the Bible, one in the Old Testament that is echoed in the New. As we have seen, it was important for Jesus to follow, to act out quite specifically, the predictions made by the Old Testament prophets in describing the coming of the messiah. We have already seen the very literal expression of these predictions during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when he finally went public with his messianic claims. We can therefore be confident in expecting that every messianic prediction in the Old Testament would be pressed into use in this manner.

In a real sense these predictions by the Prophets limited Jesus. They provided a set of boundaries within which his messianic mission needed to express itself. A particularly interesting prediction was given by the prophet Hosea (II:I): “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (emphasis mine). Matthew (2:I5) picks up on this in one of the earliest prophetic predictions he mentions: in a garbled historical account, he records that the Holy Family fled into Egypt when Jesus was still a baby, explaining, “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my son out of Egypt.'”

I’ve learned that anywhere in the New Testament when these words “This was to fulfill . . .” are used to preface a Biblical event, one can be sure that what follows is a rationalization by the author(s)inserted into the text in order to connect the event with words of prophecy from the Old Testament. It’s like doing research in order to find something that backs up or proves one’s preconceived conclusion or beliefs.

Why Egypt?

AT THIS POINT, we cannot help but ask, why Egypt? This is a minor detail in Matthew’s Gospel and is treated as such in the Roman Church. But for the Egyptian Coptic Church, which separated from Rome in 451 following the Council of Chalcedon, it is a matter of considerable importance indeed. For almost a thousand years it has maintained a legend about the journey the Holy Family made into Egypt, all the sites they visited or resided at, and all the miracles that accompanied the presence of Jesus. This legend is called “The Vision of Theophilus.” Theophilus was patriarch of Alexandria and leader of the Egyptian church from A.D. 385 to 4I2, but the Vision seems not to have been written down until the eleventh or twelfth century

Given the highly devotional nature of the story and the very obvious use made of it to justify Jesus’ uniqueness and divinity, we can locate its theology far beyond the beliefs of the Jewish community in Egypt—the community that would have been giving refuge to Jesus’ family. What’s more, these same factors place the origins of the theology in an era following the dogmatic decisions of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It seems fairly evident that the Vision—at the very least—is a product of Christian thought in the fourth century A.D. or later, and certainly not of Judaism or Judeo-Christianity. It therefore cannot be an accurate account of any such journey, although it may very well contain some elements of a real journey. Thus, we need to ask, whom does the story serve? Who would have benefited from its telling?

No one would have benefited more than the author of the Gospel of Matthew himself, as it added credibility to his Gospel. For less obvious reasons, the Coptic Church in Egypt would have benefited by the story of the Holy Family’s travels to the East. “The Coptic Church has been at odds with Rome for over six-hundred years, and its faith was at least tolerated by the Muslim rulers.” There appear to be political and economic factors influencing Mathew’s scenario.

If the Gospel of Matthew is given greater credence, then it stands to reason that various Egyptian holy places within the story would also be validated, thereby opening up a whole new pilgrim route that would include Egypt. With pilgrims, of course, came trade and gold.

Despite its deficiencies, the tale gives every appearance of picking up on local oral tradition or legend. And local legend is dismissed at one’s own peril, for local memories are long. There has certainly been a very ancient and widespread Jewish presence in Egypt—extensive enough to justify the story’s telling well into Islamic times.

There was a legitimate and functioning—although controversial—Jewish Temple in Egypt during the lifetime of Jesus. It was founded by the Zadokite high priest, Onias III, who built it upon the ruins of an old Bubastis temple in the Egyptian delta on the same design as the Temple of Jerusalem.

Onias III, a Zadokite priest, was forced to flee Israel to Egypt when Jerusalem was attacked by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphane in 170 B.C., and the Temple in Jerusalem was taken over by non-Zadokite priests allied with Epiphane. The Onias Temple with its Zadokite priest became the only legitimate Jewish Temple in the region. That is until his son, Onias IV, a military commander in the Egyptian army and a non-Zadokite priest, succeeded his father as high priest. This made the Onias Temple in Egypt illegitimate, a diminishing of status by Josephus that was used as his rationale for excluding it from serious academic consideration, by Josephus himself as well as by Philo of Alexandria—both of whom had friends in high places in Israel to placate; friends in the upper class wealthy Jewish sector as well as in the ruling class. Both groups wanted to put distance between them and the Zadokites and the Zealots associated with the Onias Temple in Egypt as well as the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Onias Temple was on the road that Jesus and his parents would have traveled from Judea to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt in order to avoid the strongly-influenced Jewish communities in Alexandria and Naucratis to the west. They would then have traveled south along this road that passed by Onias’ temple, where they would most likely have stopped and settled. Baigent reasons:

And it is highly unlikely that Jesus and his family, raised in a Zealot environment, one that hoped and prayed for a reinstatement of a Zadokite priesthood in the Temple of Jerusalem, would have just passed by this Egyptian Jewish temple. All of these observations lead naturally to the thought that the Temple of Onias served as the initial training site of Jesus. It was here perhaps that he received his introduction into the politically active world of the Zealots.

In a sense, we can see the temple as an overseas branch of Galilee where Greek-speaking Zealots could learn their trade. It would have also been a good place for Jesus’ family to bring him so that he could learn what it would mean to be the Messiah of Israel, for all the texts and commentaries on the role of the messiah would have been available there. So we do now have a good reason for the Holy Family to have traveled to Egypt, and a reason for Matthew’s brief comment, disguised as a flight from the dangers posed by Herodian infanticide. In fact, it would seem not to have been a flight at all but rather a positive action undertaken in order to allow Jesus to grow, to study, and to teach away from the troubles in Judaea and Galilee.

Despite his training in the Zealot cause, Jesus, as we have seen, at some point secretly took another path – one revealed only after he had been anointed as messiah [by Mary of Bethany, who was also Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ wife and companion], when it was far too late for anybody to challenge him. That path was a more mystical path. Yet where in the Jewish world of Egypt could he have learned such a path? For the answer to this question, we need to look at one of the mystical groups of the time, one described by Philo of Alexandria.

In my next post I will consider the Therapeutae healers in Egypt with whom Jesus may have studied and developed his own gift of healing. I will also consider a most enlightening chapter of Baigent’s book that tells about the mysticism of Egypt and the rituals of initiation into the Mystery School and what was called “incubation,” a most interesting and exciting consideration that may shed light on what really happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, stay tuned.

Anthony Palombo

Read my Health Light Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com – shedding light on health issues from a Holistic perspective and paradigm.

 

 

 

 

 

The “Jesus of History” . . . . Vs The “Jesus of Faith” Part 1

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“WHAT IF EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT JESUS IS WRONG?” – From the cover of Michael Baigent’s book THE JESUS PAPERS – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.  Michael Baigent is a religious historian and leading expert in the field of arcane knowledge.

I received a number of “likes” and a few comments on my last post, which I always love receiving. One comment came from a niece that I thought is worth sharing here, since she sent it to me on Facebook rather than posting it to my blog. She says:

“Thanks for having the courage to educate us all about the history that so many choose to ignore. You will probably be burned in effigy…lol. My belief is that we need not be ashamed of our history unless we refuse to learn from it.”

My belief as well. I am not convinced, however, that we have learned from our history – or even explored it at any length so as to know what it is we need to learn from it.  Thus my exploration, which I am somewhat tentative in sharing in a public forum such as this. Some of my readers may, indeed, burn me verbally in effigy, as my niece said, and if that should happen, I extend love and compassion ahead of such time that this may indeed come to pass. Bless you and forgive me for exploring my own Italian/French/Irish Catholic roots, which I’ve taken for granted.

With that said, I will continue my exploration of information that has come to me in a thoroughly researched and well documented book by Michael Bagent entitled The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. My purpose in reading his book – for the second time – is to arrive at a better understanding of who exactly Jesus was and what actually occurred during his brief life and public ministry. Again, from the cover of his book:

In The Jesus Papers, the author reveals the truth about Jesus’s life and crucifixion. Despite–or rather because of–all the celebration and veneration that have surrounded the figure of Jesus for centuries, Baigent asserts that Jesus and the circumstances leading to his death have been heavily mythologized.

One of these myths is that Jesus founded Christianity and that his apostle Peter founded the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing could be farther from the truth, according to Baigent. The “elephant in the room” in any discussion of the origins of Christianity is the obvious improbability that a Jew would be founding a Christian religion. Christianity was not even a concept in Jesus’s mind.  Judaism was the religion of his time, along with paganism. And the apostle Peter did not found the Roman Catholic Church. That was the Roman Emperor Constantine 325 years after Jesus’s time. (More about this episode later.) Baigent helps us look at the political setting into which Jesus was born and in which he lived and ministered to the Jewish people.

Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian

Jesus was born during warring times. The Zealots, a Jewish sect, were battling the Romans over the city of Jerusalem and the Temple that had become a “den of thieves,” as Jesus described it when he drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple with a whip. They wanted priests in the temple who were descendants of Aaron. They also were looking for the Messiah to appear and restore the kingdom of Israel, as foretold by the prophets. Baigent depicts the setting in which Jesus assumed his messianic role, entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey:

There is no getting away from it: Jesus entered Jerusalem quite deliberately, pressing all the right buttons in order to put himself forward as the chosen Messiah of Israel, the anointed king, whose arrival had been foretold by the prophets. He knew it. He was open to it.

Jesus was born a Jew from the seed of Joseph, who was a descendant of the House of David. Yes, he had an earthly father who knew his mother, Mary, in the Biblical sense of that word, and brought him forth in the same manner as any other normal birth. It was the Church later on, with its hang up on human sexuality and its “obsession with perpetual virginity and celibacy” that fabricated the scenario of the virgin birth. Jesus had to have Joseph’s genetic heritage from the Line of David in order to be the promised Messiah, along with his mother’s priestly bloodline.

The author goes on to describe how Jesus was groomed by the Zealots from childhood for this role, only to have him later betray them and their revolutionary cause:

Imagine the problem: the Zealots, whose entire focus was the removal or destruction of Rome’s hold over Judea, had organized a dynastic marriage between Joseph, a man of the royal line of David, and Mary, of the priestly line of Aaron, in order to have a child, Jesus–the “Savior” of Israel–who was both rightful king and high priest.

Whether or not the Zealots “organized” Joseph and Mary’s marriage, what is factual is their inheritance of the royal bloodline of King David and the priestly bloodline of the High Priest Aaron. The Jews knew that their Messiah had arrived and all that was left was for Jesus to fulfill the prophecies of Holy Scripture and restore Judea as a nation by driving the Romans from the Holy City of Jerusalem and replacing the priests of the Temple with a High Priest descendant from the line of Aaron.

The big let-down that led to Jesus’s crucifixion

As it turned out, Jesus did not go about fulfilling their expectations. To the contrary, Jesus let them down royally when he failed to excuse them from paying taxes in that pivotal moment when he wisely answered their loaded question about paying taxes by suggesting they “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Taxes were one of the chief contentions between the Jews and the Romans. Their refusal to pay Caesar’s taxes did not sit well with Caesar, as one can imagine. Then there was the issue of Jesus’ failure to be their temporal king and leader of their revolution. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus had told them on more than one occasion, and repeated it at his trial before Pontius Pilate. “They had to get rid of Jesus and find a leader more amenable to their agenda, such as his brother James who was leading the community of messianic Jews in Jerusalem after Jesus was out of the picture.”

We must take note here that it was the Zealots and not the Jewish people in general who were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. If they couldn’t have a temporal king, they could at least have a martyr.

The origins of Christianity and Catholicism

Returning to the subject of the origin of the Christian religion, as I stated earlier, it was the Roman Emperor Constantine some 325 years after Jesus’s life and alleged crucifixion who, in a grab for power and control over an increasing Christian populace, and for the sake of unity in his empire, decreed that Jesus was the Son of God and the founder of Christianity. He simply made Christianity the official religion of Rome to unify his empire:

Constantine . . . called the Council of Nicaea to oppose the ideas of the heretic Arius. The aim was to get support for the idea that Jesus Christ was “of one being” with God the Father, a claim that Arius and others disputed; for them, Jesus was not divine. As Princeton’s Professor Elaine Pagels dryly observes, “Those who opposed this phrase pointed out that it occurs neither in the Scripture nor in Christian tradition.” But the objections proved of no consequence to the politically ruthless theologians who traveled to Nicaea with a set agenda in mind.

By this decision, the Council of Nicaea created the literally fantastic Jesus of faith and adopted the pretense that this was a historically accurate rendering. Its actions also established the criteria by which the New Testament books would later be chosen. The Council of Nicaea produced a world of Christianity where a code of belief was held in common. Anything different was to be deemed heresy and to be rejected and, if possible, exterminated.

Enter the “Inquisitors”

What followed is a bloody chapter in the history of early Catholicism. Baigent retells this bloody history of the “Inquisitors,” who became “the Church’s killers — their army of secret informers,ruthless interrogators, and cold judges, all acting in the name of Christ.” Pope Damasus I (366-84) hired a group of killers to spend three days massacring his opponents.”

The next bloody chapters started in the 12th century and lasted over a thousand years of what was called the “Holy Inquisition” by which hundreds of thousands of non-believers – heretics and witches – were massacred, many burned alive for not embracing Constantine’s and Rome’s version of Christianity. The Dominicans played a central role as the Church’s killers. “The Inquisition boasted that over the course of 150 years it burned approximately thirty-thousand women — all innocent victims of a Church-sanctioned pathological fantasy.”

One particularly bloody chapter was the extermination of the Cathars of Languedoc in Southern France. These were

“holy men and women who embraced a life of renunciation, spirituality, and simplicity — les Bonhommes, they called themselves, ‘The Good Men’ or ‘the Good Christians.’ They served a population who craved personal religious experience but whose needs were hardly served by the established church, which had abdicated its spiritual role for one more commercial and venal.”

The fault line between belief in and knowledge of truth

During the Second Century AD there was a “basic fault line that separated two strong traditions…: on the one side were those who sought knowledge [Gnostics], and on the other were those who were content with belief. It is important,” Baigent writes, “that we distinguish between the two since this fault line is one of the primary forces that ultimately crystallized the orthodox Christian position.”

Today we are seeing the emergence of something quite similar to what was then called “Gnosticism” as the truth again emerges through the quagmire of a spiritual revolution in which people the world over are awakening to the realization that we are divine, made in the image and likeness of God – gods incarnate in human form to co-create a Heaven here on Earth, fulfilling Jesus’s sole mission and purpose for incarnating two-thousand years ago. And this is my offering as a worthy and believable alternative to living in a system of belief that has too long denied the truth that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, within us and all around us. We are finally repenting – literally turning around – and seeing with new eyes that this truth is true and all is well. Unconquerable Life is prevailing over centuries of lies and deception.

I will end this post on that note, because this does present a worthy and believable alternative to Christianity, which is based on the Jesus of Faith rather than the Jesus of History.

In my next post, I will explore the historical records that shed light on the “eighteen missing years” of Jesus’s life of which there is no Biblical record. Until then,

Be love. Be loved.

Antony Palombo

Read my Health Light Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.

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