“Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river.” — Persian Sufi Jelaluddin Rumi
I spent seven years as a young aspirant to the Roman Catholic priesthood and not one class in all those years of seminary training was dedicated to the study of the corrupt political history of the Roman Catholic Church. We were never told the whole truth about the bloody history of Christianity either. Alleged heretics and witches, we were taught, were evil and had to be burned at the stake. Funny how that bit of history didn’t engender fear in us of the Catholic Church and the Pope. But, that was then and things are different today. Or are they? If you don’t get burned at the stake here you spend eternity burning in hell if you dare apostatize yourself and sin against the Church. But first you are excommunicated and barred from receiving the sacraments. It’s still governance by fear, isn’t it?
Now, do not pity me . . . nor judge me too harshly as I pursue this line of inquiry into the mythical story of Christmas and of the life, death and resurrection of the man Jesus, which form the corner stone dogmas of Christianity. I do so out of a deep and abiding love for truth and a compassionate love for my fellowman. I do not like being lied to. I don’t think anybody does. Please forgive me if I step on your beliefs. I don’t mean to cause anyone insult or injury. I do believe, however, that if we do not remember our past, we are likely to repeat it. Perhaps we are repeating it in the Middle East.
A reader made this comment on my last post entitled “Transcending the Christmas Myth”:
“I think it all might help if it leads towards knowing the truth; otherwise it’s just history of the gods and goddesses made in the image and likeness of mankind. These fear-generations would be well left behind with last year’s resolutions.”
To which I replied:
As you continue reading this series of posts, I think you will see that the truth is exactly what I am leading toward. When we know the truth we are freed up from our illusions created by myths. Knowing the truth about Jesus’s life would disturb a lot of people. In the Gospel of Thomas, one of the findings of the Nag Hammadi discoveries, Jesus is recorded as having said “The seeker should not stop until he finds. When he does find, he will be disturbed. After having been disturbed, he will be astonished. Then he will reign over everything.” It is not fear that is generated by knowing the truth about how our beliefs came to be formed by pagan myths of gods made in the images of man. The God of today is still being made in the image of man. Nothing has changed. We need to be “disturbed” out of our illusions. Then we will reign over everything as promised.
Since this interchange, I’ve given some critical thought to what we both acknowledged: that both ancient and contemporary gods are made – fashioned in human consciousness and beliefs – in the image and after the likeness of humans. We project our human attitudes and characteristics on our God: He is jealous, He is vengeful, He is angry, He is loving, He is forgiving, He is a man, as opposed to being a woman, He punishes us when we’re bad and rewards us when we’re good. All human attributes and characteristics.
Now, the suggestion that my post generates fear aroused in me a curiosity about how many of my readers felt fearful reading my post. Even more curious am I about how many Christians really care about the history of Christianity – or of Christmas, for that matter. Probably not very many. Most are content with their beliefs, especially their religious ones. Alas, does it really matter what happened in the far distant past? What really matters is what we are doing now to created a more authentic and kind world, a world founded on truth rather than beliefs.
Over the years I’ve come to understand that it is easier to take candy away from a child than it is to take away a person’s beliefs. I was glad to let go of mine when a friend came along and provided me a worthy and believable alternative: the truth: that God is to be known and experienced and not just believed in. We human beings seem to love our beliefs more than we love the truth.
I wonder, dear reader, if you will allow me space here, without judgment, to explore some information that has come into my hands pertaining to the apparent fabricated “Jesus of Faith” and the factual “Jesus of history” – to the extent that authentic facts are available for exploration . . and fortunately they seem to be. Several books have recently been written by authors who have done the research and explored the historical evidence that what has been handed down to us by our ancestral religious “authorities” has been less than accurate and truthful. In fact, according to one author, it has largely been a pack of fabricated lies designed to manipulate and literally frighten the “faithful” into obedient subjection. And that’s putting it mildly – not intending to offend anyone. (I do intend to provide a worthy and believable alternative as I complete this series of posts. So, bear with me as we move forward.)
The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History by Michael Baigent is one such book – whose subtitle speaks for the theme of the book and the intent of its author. I’m reading it for the second time with highlighter in hand, simply because there are just so many provocative findings in his exhaustive research into historical records – pivotal of which are what he calls “the Jesus papers” that contain letters written to the Sanhedrin by Jesus himself in defense of accusations leveled against him regarding his alleged claim to being divine. Jesus’s answer in strikingly clarifying as to who he was. Here’s the excerpt from Baigent’s book that tells the story of this dogma-shattering historical find:
This figure, the Messiah of the Children of Israel, was defending himself against charges made by the Sanhedrin – he had obviously been accused of calling himself “son of God” and had been challenged to defend himself against this charge. In the first letter, the messiah explained that what he meant was not that he was “God” but that the “Spirit of God” was in him – not that he was physically the son of God, but rather that he was spiritually an adopted son of God. And he added that everyone who felt similarly filled with the “spirit” was also a “son of God.”
The letters referred to here are two papyrus documents found in 1961 that also contained an Aramaic text, along with other objects, that dated the finds at about A.D. 34, which was just after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. (I will address his “alleged” crucifixion in another post.) The papyrus texts were two letters, written in the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke, addressed to the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin. The writer of the letters called himself “‘bani meshiha’ – the Messiah of the Children of Israel.” The author continues:
In other words, the messiah – who must be the teacher we know as Jesus – explicitly states in these letters that he is not divine – or at any rate, no more than anyone else. This, we can be sure, is something the Vatican would not like to be made public.
While listening to this story, I was struck by the similarity with a very curious incident described in the Gospel of John (10:33-35): in a short passage, it describes the “Jews” as being intent upon stoning Jesus for blasphemy. They hurl an accusation at him, saying, “You are only a man and you claim to be God.” Jesus calmly answers their challenge, quoting from Psalm 82: “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I said, you are gods?’ So the Law uses the word gods of those to whom the word of God was addressed.” Is this Gospel reporting some garbled residue of this investigation of the meshiha by the Sanhedrin?
Having discovered these two papyrus letters, my friend showed them to the archaeologists Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad and asked their opinion of them. They both confirmed that these letters were genuine and important.
Unfortunately, they also told some Catholic scholars – very likely one or another of the members of the Ecole Biblique, consultants to the Pontifical Biblical Commission – for word reached Pope John XXIII. The pope sent word back to the Israeli experts asking for these documents to be destroyed.
My friend refused to do this, but he was prepared to make a promise that they would not be published for twenty-five years. This was done.
At the time I met him the twenty-five years were long expired, but my friend still refused to release the texts because he felt that releasing them would just cause problems between the Vatican and Israel and inflame anti-Semitism.
In this age of spiritual awakening, these findings should not – and probably do not – shock anyone. I rather suspect that most Christians, and certainly most Catholics, entertain secret doubts about the veracity of church dogmas and their blind faith in them. I do not deny the divinity of Jesus, nor our own divinity as sons and daughters of God – made in the image and likeness of our Divine Creator. I believe that Jesus was a very authentic human being who knew who he was and why he came. He came to bring love back into the hearts of human beings and to restore the connection between Man and our Creator, the Father within. He came to turn people around – the literal meaning of the word “repent” – so that they would see that the Kingdom of Heaven is truly at hand, within us and all around us.
But who factually was Jesus according to historical records? This I will explore in my next post. So, stay tuned. I wish you each one a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.
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