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Was Jesus an Essene?

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An Essene Leader Proselytizing Jews Worried about God's day of vengeance

The evidence is too scrambled and distorted with age and intention to sort out the certain truth, so we have to find the best hypothesis. It is that, if Jesus was historical, he was a senior Essene. The scrolls say that when the End approaches (the apocalypse) the Essenes must try to bring into their fold as many righteous Jews as they can. Essenes considered themselves as the righteous Jews, so it meant finding Jews willing to join them in view of the impending day of God’s Vengeance. To do so, the Jews willing to had to repent with sincerity and not sin until the kingdom came (the apocalyse again). So Essenes had to go out as evangelists proselytizing ordinary Jews.

Leading Jews were highly conscious of the uncleanliness of the unrighteous mass, but they were required to be humble, so the duty of proselytizing fell upon the senior Essenes above all. The gospels are versions of the attempt of the leaders, John the Baptist, Jesus and then James the Righteous, with Jesus central for Christians, to convert Jews to their cause. Jesus plainly expected the End when he and his apostles were in the Garden of Gethsemane. The End did not come, and Jesus was crucified as a usurper of the emperor’s right to rule. Essenes removed his body for a decent burial according to Essenic tradition, but the followers, converts, not lifelong Essenes, thought he had arisen. Thus began Christianity. This reconstruction has the advantage of accounting for the data without requiring God’s intervention.

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Written by mikemagee

19 August, 2012 at 9:41 pm

The Philosophy of Christianity

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The Test of Truth

What better test of truth do we have than the ablest men’s acceptance of it?

So asked the historian J A Froude in his 1851 essay, “The Philosophy of Christianity”. He was defending Christianity against the accusation of being intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune. In essence, he was arguing that the best minds could not have been wrong for 1800 years. Or, if they were, then we have no basis for believing anything, for whatever it is might turn out to be just as absurd, offensive and unfortunate.

Well, for good or ill, that is nevertheless what science does teach. Science has to be corrigible or it cannot make progress. So what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. Science determines what is true by testing its ideas against reality. If they can predict reality—if the ideas work—then they are considered true, but not otherwise. A Christian has the idea that there is a mighty personal power in the universe that can do what it likes. Science would want to know how that can be tested.

One way would be to say, God answers prayers and therefore changes reality. We can test that. Yet no such test of the effectiveness of prayer has ever produced a convincing result. When they have seemed to, a fault in the method has been found skewing the results. So the idea of God has not so far been confirmed by science, and consequently scientists cannot accept the idea of God. For the corollary of testing is that we do not believe what is not shown to be true. It is called skepticism. The Christian understands it for they are skeptical of all other claims of divinity other than those of their own gods.

So, by this process of incremental testing, science accumulates knowledge. The increments are most often small ones, but sometimes a basic idea might need to be changed and then a large step is necessary, called a paradigm shift. But rarely is any new truth far removed from an older one, and always it must be a better one, more precise or comprehensive.

Religions are not generally corrigible, but, on the contrary, claim to be permanently fixed by the all encompassing power of the universe called God. It is not strictly true, of course, authorities like the pope or some council somewhere do change religions, and, besides that, they evolve from generation to generation, therefore imperceptibly to each in its day. As it is fixed by God, at least notionally, it needs no criterion of truth. A religion is accepted by a child or convert as being true—they are assured it is the only truth—and thereafter there can be no basis for questioning the truth of it.

Even so, Christians are allowed and perhaps encouraged to doubt, as long as the doubt is not itself allowed to change belief. It is not therefore a genuine doubt, for a real doubt can be resolved in one of at least two opposite ways. To be genuine, doubt must frequently lead to a loss of faith, something the local priest or pastor cannot allow to happen for that is to let a church member fall into sin and hell fire, a serious matter, they think. Consequently, the doubt of the Christian is to be countered by a firm application of faith bolstered by the assistance of the ablest of church men in accepting “the truth”. In short, Christian doubt is spurious. It is a mere test of a faith which once applied generously should cure the patient.

Knowing No Better

As churches have no criterion of truth other than faith, Froude’s criterion is the one they always have used. It is the reason why religions base themselves on authority—the judgement of the ablest of the men among them. It is not therefore an objective criterion of truth, but the opposite—these able men accept the truth they have been taught, and have no other criterion than what they have been told. It is biased, and there is no way of rebutting the bias in it except by contradiction. Yet throughout that 1800 years, it was the only “truth” available, so even the ablest did not notice the bias or felt unwilling to contradict it, probably for love of their mortal lives, the lure of heavenly bliss notwithstanding. Had we been in the same situation, with no alternative to the “truth” offered us besides death, we would have been the same.

So, the modern skeptic ought not to scoff at the Sumerians “feeding” their gods because it was their duty as god’s slaves to do so, and if the priests always looked well fed, it was because the gods looked upon them favorably! They ought not to scoff at Abraham being willing to sacrifice a child to his god because that is what Canaanites did, according to their beliefs, and as many were poor and could not afford to support large families, they might have been grateful that their gods were pleased to take back a child. Nor ought we to scoff at a medieval Catholic peasant brought up to the “absurdities” of Christianity for those were all they were allowed to know, for they could not read their bibles for themselves, unlike the modern Protestant who chooses not to and therefore believes everything except what Christ taught them. We are entitled to scoff at them.

The modern skeptic scoffs at those who now should know better, but prefer to put their heads in a bucket because Christ sounds more like a liberal than a libertarian. These people do not want to know the truth but still want to profess “the truth” as they define it. Today we have proven methods of investigating the truth of things, and we have criteria for truth so as to test that it indeed is. It is those who are perverse and refuse to consider the progress we have made in investigating reality who deserve the disdain of the scoffers. Whatever the ablest once thought, though wrong, was excusable then, but it is inexcusable now.

Possibly primitive people took it for granted that the earth was flat, but by the time of the Greeks of Alexandria, it had been proven to be a sphere. We are justified perhaps in scoffing at those after then who still believed in the flatness of the earth, depending on their level of education, but we are led to believe that many even of the ablest men still believed it. Of course, a reason for the lamentable education of everyone except the very rich, and even some of them, was that the Church had refused to copy any books it deemed superfluous—most of them except Latin and Greek grammar books for priestly education, bibles and devotional books. It suggests how dangerous and destructive mere faith is.

Contrary to Froude therefore, the ablest men are not necessarily right and can be utterly wrong en masse when alternatives are forbidden and scholarship is considered subversive. It is those who were willing to speak up for alternatives to “the truth” whom we can thank for the modern world’s achievements.

Good and Evil

Yet “the truth” persists in the face of truth, and we are held back by a large number of people who will not let go of medieval religion, even in the knowledge of the technological sophistication achieved in our world. Matter was the source of evil. The Persians had solved the problem of theodicy by conceiving a wicked god whose aim was to spoil everything the good God did. These were metaphors for the bad and good behavior that humans could choose between—we were meant to choose good and reject wickedness. We ourselves had to choose with every decision we made and act accordingly. Given sufficient people choosing “good”, the world would be good.

Unsophisticated people cannot understand abstracts and have to think they are like real solid, perhaps living, beings, albeit supernatural—they are out there! So the metaphors always became actual entities for the simple. As is the inevitable rule dictated by opportunism and human selfishness, the simple creed, “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”, was changed. The individual was not directly to blame by making the wrong choices, instead the wicked entity had infected the material world, which was therefore contaminated with wickedness. Choices still had to be made, but the presumption was that worldwide pollution left everyone compromised. In Christianity, it became “Original Sin”.

The ablest men could now have little or nothing to do with the material world. They were safer withdrawing from it rather than trying to make the right choices while living in it. They had to be devout, had to exercise their minds with prayer and incessantly praising God, so as to leave no room for anything but God, and thereby cease to be a normal human to ensure entry into God’s angelic kingdom after death. Real life and the real world had no purpose, unless ceaseless other worldly devotions are considered it. Needless to say, if everyone did that, then we should all die. But many of the ablest did just that, albeit many with an utter lack of sincerity, paying lip service to piety while fully enjoying the temptations of the sinful world.

The crucifixion of the good God while visiting the earth as a man had saved all believing Christians from the wickedness around them, so they might as well seek high office, palaces, good food, fine wines, seraglios, and so on, while they were here, content in the knowledge they already had the key to the Pearly Gate. Though their own God while on earth had blessed poverty and damned the rich, they saw no incongruity, continuing to think they had been saved by their belief, even though they made no effort to act upon the moral instructions the incarnated God had issued from his own mouth.

The material world was a world of disease, decay and death, a world in which entropy inevitably increased, but another world free of entropy awaited simply for accepting “the truth”. Matter is the cause of evil, and Christianity is the cure. Mere belief in Christ, a savior, is the magic salvific thought. No choice of good deeds over evil ones was necessary, and so nothing in the wicked world could, in fact, change. There was no will to do it, as there had once been. Reward came after death. That was it.

Christ taught an admirably practical philosophy, but Christians sidelined it. Now, not only is Christianity intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune, it is the ultimate scam.

Quack “Scholars” play to the Christian Gallery over Talpiot Tombs and Ossuaries

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Original Sketch Jonah Ossuary

Professor James D Tabor, professor and chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has inspected by robotic camera an apparently undisturbed first century tomb in Jerusalem. It contains limestone Jewish ossuaries, boxes into which the bones of the dead were placed after their flesh had decayed from them. Greek inscriptions and in some cases images suggested to Tabor that the tombs were Christian. Thus a four line Greek inscription on one ossuary speaks of God “raising up” someone, and a carved image on another ossuary could be a fish with a human stick figure in its mouth, an image evoking the biblical story of Jonah.

Sign of Jonah

The sign of Jonah, as mentioned by Jesus—according to Matthew and Luke but not Mark, the earliest gospel—is interpreted as his resurrection. Jonah images in later Christian art, such as images found in the Roman catacombs, are the most common motif found on tombs pesumed to be symbolizing the Christian resurrection hope. Jonah is not depicted in any first century Jewish art, and iconographic images on ossuaries are extremely rare, given the prohibition within Judaism of making images of people or animals.

This ossuary with the speculative Jonah image has other puzzling engravings, believed to be linked with resurrection. On one side is the tail of a fish disappearing off the edge of the box, as if it is diving into the water, although the lower half is not obscured by any symbolic water but merely because it is obscured by some other object in the tomb! There are more small similar “fish” images around its border on the front facing, and on the other side is the image of a cross like gate or entrance, which Tabor interprets as the notion of entering the “bars” of death, which are mentioned in the Jonah story in the Bible. Tabor remarked:

This Jonah ossuary is most fascinating. It seems to represent a pictorial story with the fish diving under the water on one end, the bars or gates of death, the bones inside, and the image of the great fish spitting out a man representing, based on the words of Jesus, the sign of Jonah—the sign that he would escape the bonds of death.

Jonah's Fish Swam Head Down. Is it a Miracle? Or an Amphora?

Among the approximately 2000 ossuaries that have been recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority, only 650 have any inscriptions on them, and none have inscriptions comparable to those on ossuaries 5 and 6. Less than a dozen ossuaries from the period have epitaphs but, according to Tabor, these inscribed messages usually have to do with warnings not to disturb the bones of the dead. In contrast, though the epitaph’s full translation is uncertain, he concludes:

This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus’ resurrection.

The first three lines are clear, but the last line, consisting of three Greek letters, is not clear. It could be:

  • O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up
  • The Divine Jehovah raises up to the Holy Place
  • The Divine Jehovah raises up from [the dead]

Beyond the possible Christian connection, Tabor noted that the tomb’s assemblage of ossuaries stands out as clearly extraordinary in the context of other previously explored tombs in Jerusalem:

Everything in this tomb seems unusual when contrasted with what one normally finds inscribed on ossuaries in Jewish tombs of this period. Of the seven ossuaries remaining in the tomb, four of them have unusual features.

There are engravings on five of the seven ossuaries inspected:

  1. an enigmatic symbol on ossuary 2, possibly stylized Greek or Hebrew letters reading Yod Heh Vav Heh or YHWH, though interpretation is speculative
  2. an inscription reading MARA in Greek letters on ossuary 3, which Tabor translates as the Aramaic feminine form of “Lord” or “Master”, in other words Lady or Mistress
  3. an indecipherable word in Greek letters on ossuary 4, possibly a name beginning with JO…
  4. a four line Greek inscription on ossuary 5
  5. a series of images on ossuary 6, including the large image of a fish with the stickman supposedly emerging from its mouth.

Talpiot Tombs

The tomb itself is dated before 70 AD, on the assumption that ossuary use in Jerusalem ceased then when Romans destroyed the city. Accordingly, if the markings are Christian, they are the earliest archaeological record of Christians ever found by several centuries. They must have been made by some of Jesus’s earliest followers, within decades of his death and predate the writing of the gospels. Tabor said:

If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period, I would have said impossible, until now. Our team was in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, but the evidence was clearly before our eyes, causing us to revise our prior assumptions.

The discovery is published in The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity, which Tabor has co-authored with the sensationalist film maker for The Discovery Channel, and now somehow, professor of religion, Simcha Jacobovici, as Tabor’s gushing enthusiasm shows. Simcha Jacobovici has made several pseudo-historical pot-boiling books and films before, including the Jesus Family Tomb, but none of them pass muster. He has been compared with Dan Brown, author of the novel, The Da Vinci Code, the significant difference being that Brown claims only to be a novelist. That Jacobovici approves of the comparison must mean something, but Jacobovoci seems to have fooled people who should know better He is the “Naked Archaeologist”, a self publicist and opportunist, not a scholar.

Most proper scholars are skeptical of any Christian archaeological remains from so early a period. Moreover, this tomb is close to the tomb that Jacobovici sold to those willing to buy it as “The Jesus Family Tomb”. It too had in it inscribed ossuaries that had some of the names of Jesus’s associates or family, including one that reads “Jesus, son of Joseph”. These were common names at the time.

The tomb containing the new discoveries is a modest sized, carefully carved rock cut cave tomb typical of Jerusalem in the period from 20 BC until 70 AD. It was revealed in 1981 by builders, and is now several meters under the basement level of a modern condominium building in East Talpiot, a neighborhood of Jerusalem less than two miles south of the Old City. Archaeologists at the time were able to examine it and its ossuaries only briefly, to take preliminary photographs, and to remove one pot and an ossuary, before they were forced to leave by Orthodox religious groups who oppose excavation of Jewish tombs. Tabor points out:

Context is everything in archaeology. These two tombs, less than 200 feet apart, were part of an ancient estate, likely related to a rich family of the time. We chose to investigate this tomb because of its proximity to the so-called Jesus tomb, not knowing if it would yield anything unusual.

The ossuary taken, that of a child, is now in the Israel State Collection. It is decorated but has no inscriptions. The archaeologists mention two Greek names but did not notice either the newly discovered Greek inscription or the Jonah image before they had to leave. The tomb was re-sealed and buried beneath the condominium complex on what is now Don Gruner Street in East Talpiot.

The adjacent “Jesus tomb”, was uncovered by the same construction company in 1980, just one year earlier. It was thoroughly excavated and its contents removed by the Israel Antiquities Authority. This tomb’s controversial ossuaries with their cluster of names, seemingly gospel, are now part of the Israel State Collection and have been on display in various venues, including the Israel Museum.

In 2009 and 2010, Tabor and Rami Arav, professor of archaeology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, working together with Jacobovici, obtained a license to excavate the current tomb from the Israel Antiquities Authority under the academic sponsorship of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Because of its physical location under a modern building, making direct access nearly impossible, along with the threat of Orthodox Jewish groups that would protest any such excavation, Tabor’s team determined to employ a minimally invasive procedure in examining the tomb.

Jacobovici’s team at the Toronto based Associated Producers used a robotic arm with high definition cameras, donated by General Electric. The robotic arm and a second “snake” camera were inserted through two drill holes in the basement floor of the building above the tomb. The team reached the ossuaries and photographed them on all sides, revealing the inscriptions. The Discovery Channel/Vision Television/Associated Producers provided funding.

More Likely Interpretations

Fish or Foul, an Amphora

Needless to say, the speculation that these objects and their interpretation, even if it is correct, pertains to Christianity just a few decades after the supposed crucifixion is rejected by most rational scholars. Mark Goodacre blogs critically about these Discovery Channel sideshows. Another critical website is Tom Verenna’s. The possibility of such a connexion is more likely if the crucifixion was earlier, say around 21 AD, and it is even more likely if the allusions reflect the beliefs extant among Essenes. All this is discussed at the Askwhy! website.

Model Fish? Judaea

Video: Evolutionary Study of Religion—David Sloan Wilson

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Seal Suggests Jewish Temple Business Transacted in Aramaic not Hebrew

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Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University has found near the Western Wall under Jerusalem’s Old City a rare clay seal that they say came from the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago—between the first century BC and 70 AD—because it bears the inscription “pure for God”. The upper terminus is set by the closing of the temple by the Romans after the Jewish War.

Aramaic Temple Seal from the time of Christ

This is the first such seal found dating from this period. Very many seals from apparently earlier periods are known, but regrettably so many of them are fakes, no one can be sure that any are genuine unless they have been found in situ. As it is, Reich, the co-director of the excavation opines that seal indicates temple ritual, signifying that Temple officials had approved some thing for temple use, like oil or a sacrificial beast. Offerings to God—for the benefit of the priests, in fact—had to be pure and perfect.

Curiously, though, the inscribed words are written in Aramaic and not Hebrew, as one might expect for ritual relics associated with the Jewish religion for which Hebrew was and still is the sacred language. The part of the Jewish Talmuds called the Mishna mentions the use of seals as tokens by diaspora pilgrims, who would have predominantly spoken Greek or Aramaic. However, it would have been the local people, Palestinian Jews, who gave animals, it being far more convenient for pilgrims from afar, maybe overseas, to give money. Presumably a priest was only capable of judging whether an animal was suitable for sacrifice, and logically they would have had seals inscribed in Hebrew. It suggests that Hebrew was only nominally the sacred language, Aramaic serving in practice.

Written by mikemagee

30 December, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Greek Terracotta Figurines on Delos Testify to Pre-Christian Religious Tolerance

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In the second century BC, residents on the Greek island of Delos saw nothing wrong with using others’ gods in their prayers. Caitlin Barrett, Cornell assistant professor of classics and author of Egyptianizing Figurines From Delos: A Study in Hellenistic Religion, examined terracotta figurines found on Delos to determine what influence Egypt’s religion had on the Hellenized inhabitants and their daily lives.

Terracotta figurines are potential evidence for the religious ideas of a wide swath of the population, not just the rich. Such inexpensive figurines were accessible to many because they could be made rapidly and in bulk. Figurines of Egyptian gods appear as offerings at Greek gods’ temples on Delos and vice versa. Barrett explains:

The fact that somebody’s dedicating a figurine of a Greek goddess like Aphrodite to an Egyptian goddess like Isis suggests that the two were associated, or at least that their worship wasn’t considered incompatible. Greeks saw these other gods not as alternatives to the Greek pantheon but as something compatible with their own traditions.

The religious wars raging around the globe today and ingrained religious intolerance attest to the current rigidity of religions, the consequence of the intolerant tradition of Judaism with its jealous god entering the west via Christianity—Judaism for goyim—and displacing the tolerance of Hellenism. At this earlier period the tendency in Egypt and Greece was the other way—towards toleration. Barrett notes:

What’s interesting is the degree to which these foreigners—Italians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Syrians and Jews—interacted with each other’s deities and the cross pollination among worshipers.

Hellenistic Harpocrates with Egyptian Hairstyle and Upturned Torch

Although most of the figurines were produced by local craftspeople, many of them have iconography reminiscent of Egyptian deities. The Græco-Macedonian Ptolemies ruling Egypt at this time worshiped the Greek gods, while ceremonially serving the traditional Egyptian pantheon. Barrett says:

This led to the creation of syncretic imagery that combined aspects of both Greek and Egyptian traditions, and that could speak to members of this heterogeneous population. Some of that imagery wound up becoming hugely popular in the rest of the Mediterranean as well.

Delian craftsmen used techniques of figurine manufacture and conventions of artistic style that derive from Greek traditions, while conveying concepts that are fundamentally Egyptian. Barrett explains that Egyptians depicted children like adults with a finger to their mouth—because babies put their fingers in their mouths—rather than smaller and with the features of a child. However, in truth, Later Greek writers misinterpreted figurines of Harpocrates as a child to mean, from the characteristic gesture of his forefinger to his lips, that he was silencing people, and he became thought of as the god of silence and secrecy. To the Egyptians he was the symbol of the reborn sun and early vegetation, whence the upturned torch in the illustration (not a figurine from Delos), and his being a child (in the illustration having childish features and an Egyptian side lock of hair).

To pretend that Christianity avoided any trace of syncretism, as fundamentalists argue, is quite absurd. Many, perhaps most, Christian traditions and calendar dates copied ones already in use by older religions. Christmas is merely the most obvious example. It is a massive shame Christianity did not adopt and practice Hellenistic toleration too.

Water to Wine Miracle: A Matter of Plumbing

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Philip Jenkins writes (The Jesus Wars):

The Church organized public exhibitions to show how the Pagan priests had contrived some of the miraculous tricks by which they overawed the simple.

Water to Wine Miracle: A Matter of Plumbing

This sentence should give pause to the faithful but gullible readers of the bible, for some of the Old Testament miracles might have been priestly magic on just the lines the Christians here were debunking. The ancient Greeks arranged for water to turn to wine on a grand scale by clever plumbing. They could do “Open Sesame” types of miracles by having immense stone doors that would open at a touch. The ancient Persians had batteries of iron and copper rods dipped into wine or citrus juices, with which they must have been able to make sparks, and might have been able to use to light barrels of oil instantly. Perhaps the Greeks used the same trick for instant illumination at Eleusis.

So the rumblings and pyrotechnics on Mount Zion described in the bible could have been a show put on for the faithful believers, especially as we read they could only be observed by the people from a distance, so they had no idea what was really going on.

The Capitalist Christian on Jesus on Distributing Wealth

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In the Washington Post thread devoted to the economic nature of Christ’s teaching, one of the pro-capitalist Christians argued that Jesus was opposed to the redistribution of wealth on the grounds that in Luke 12:13-21 one of the multitude he was addressing said to him:

Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully, and he thought, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he decided, This will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

To make an anti-egalitarian point the greedy Christian typically extends the parable, after all they all know God’s brain, don’t they? and adds:

Mind you, here was a guy who got nothing, and his brother got everything… doesn’t seem “fair” or “socially just”, right, Libs?

Well contrary to these puerile attempts to denigrate “libs”—anyone vaguely humanitarian—most libs will wonder how this omniscient right winger can presume that this man had “been screwed in this deal”. How does he know the social circumstances or character of the man or his father? Maybe the father had given the inheritance to his most reliable son. Maybe the man’s father had cut him out of the will because he was a drunkard and a gambler. There are no reasons in the story to suggest that the man deserved better, but the point of the tale is that the man is not being “poor in spirit” by coveting his brother’s inheritance. Jesus was sticking to his own principle of the spiritual benefit of poverty. The capitalist continues:

Finally, Jesus finishes with a warning, not to the “rich” brother that received the inheritance, but to the brother that received nothing, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses”.

Does this capitalist apologist for bent Christianity know what we do not, that the rich brother was standing there? Jesus replied to the one who had addressed him, as anyone would. He was concerned that he was or would become greedy, for that is the result of wealth. The more you have, the more you want, but a society has only so much wealth and, when it is not shared fairly, the usual case, someone will be rich at the expense of others. Typically, the Christian so-called who really worships Mammon not Christ ends:

I’ve no doubt, that in response to the demanders of reparations for black people, to the demanders of social justice, to the demanders of taxing the rich more to give to the poor, to the union protesters demanding to get paid more for doing less work, that Jesus’s response to them would be, “beware of covetousness”.

Perhaps so, but no one knows the answer to hypotheticals. What we are sure of is that the Christian community believed in fair, indeed equal, distribution of possessions, and the only reason the life of Christ and of his apostles is given in the New Testament is so that they can be examples to Christians. If the only point of Christ’s life were his crucifixion, then the rest of his recorded ministry is a waste of time and effort, and shows that the Holy Spirit is stupid. The gospels tell us that the first Christians lived thus because that is the way Christians were expected to live, and subsequently, when mainstream Christianity had gone bent, many tried to live according to Christ’s principles in their own communes based on the original one described and Christ’s egalitarian moral principles.

The word translated as “covetousness” here, and in some other places, is better translated as “avarice”, being “grasping” or “greedy”. There is a marked distinction between the poor expecting society to treat them more fairly and the wealthy middle and upper classes who can never be satisfied however much they acquire—another translation is “acquisitiveness”. So, “take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” is another condemnation of rich men. No one needs riches. It is pure greed to have them, so riches are necessarily sinful, implying that others are doing without. And why leave out the illustrative parable that followed, and is cited above.

A rich man cannot be “rich towards God”. He cannot be saved because his riches mean more to him than the kingdom of God. And the clear implication is, of course, that this man thought he could be eating and drinking for years to come without a worry, yet the poor would be scratching around for a bruised fig when a fair sharing of the produce would eliminate hunger.

Socialism is fairness, not avarice. Should any decent human being prefer avarice? It seems Jesus did not think so.

Written by mikemagee

21 August, 2011 at 1:08 am

Jesus Explains the Rich Cannot be Saved

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In the discussion in The Washington Post following the items about whether Christianity is intrinsically socialist or capitalist in morality, mentioned below, the modern US capitalist oriented Christians so-called were flummoxed by the directness of their incarnated God’s message, and mostly turned to the Jewish scriptures or to Paul the Apostle for answers. They never seem to see any incongruity in citing pre-Christian Judaism against the direct words of God recorded as they fell from His own lips in the gospels, or the later teachings of a plain man trying his utmost to teach something quite different, while pretending to be preaching the same message as Christ, and succeeding so well that modern Christianity is Paulianity not Christianity!

Some of Jesus’s examples brook no opposition they are so lucid. That anyone should be bold enough to question anything so unequivocal, uttered from the lips of the man they are supposed to consider God, proves that they are not Christians. They are happy to contradict the clearest statements of the divine man! How can this one, for example, be contradicted by America’s megarich “Christians”?

Someone came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:17-24

Since US Christians cannot understand biblical English, here is a step by step explanation:

  • The man is seeking salvation, eternal life, entry into God’s kingdom
  • Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments, listing the principal ones from the Jewish scriptures, but adding his own commandment which encompasses all others, “love thy neighbor as thyself”
  • The man considers himself a law abiding Jew and has obeyed all the commandments since he was a boy, and asks whether that is sufficient
  • To be saved people have to be near enough to perfection to satisfy the Judge, God, at Judgement day, so Jesus tells him that he has to give away his wealth to the poor, and become a Christian, thereby being saved—he would have “treasure in heaven”, eternal bliss
  • The reward offered to those who are do these things is salvation, but the man prefers his gold.
  • He leaves sorrowful, but unable to forego his material riches for eternal happiness
  • Jesus explains how hard it is to get into heaven when you are rich—he says it is impossible because a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.

One commentator confidently proclaimed that this is not the whole story for Peter and the other disciples wonder how anyone can be saved if the rich cannot be. The gospels always show the apostles as being utterly devoid of brain cells, they are so lacking in comprehension. It is a deliberate device of the bishops who commissioned the gospels, because, if they were really so thick, then Jesus must have been thick to select them. Here they are depicted as thick to allow the bishops to be able to insert an ameliorating clause. It is that “all things are possible for God”. So the rich can be saved if God chooses to let them be. It is enough to satisfy the rich, who convince themselves that an occasional act of charity will suffice to get God on their side.

They have, of course, got the let-out clause upside down or inside out. The fact is that in Christian theology God is omnipotent and omniscient, and a few other things. Omnipotent means “almighty” or “all powerful”. It means He always has the final say. God is the Judge. He cannot be obliged to do anything under any conditions. That means that God’s promise is never certain! If God promises that all righteous people will be saved, it means that some of them will not be. That is why pastors are fond of saying that salvation is a gift. They use it as their excuse to deny that good deeds matter, despite the teachings of Christ that they do. It is certain that unrepentant sinners cannot be saved, because they will never be considered by the Judge. To be considered for salvation at all, people have to be perfect, that is righteous, free of sin, and, if they have sinned in their lives, they have to have repented, turned their lives around and not sinned again. The weight of the teaching of Jesus is that, having met the criteria he laid out, they will be eligible for a pass at Judgement, but it always remains God’s gift which He can always withhold, but probably will not.

The same holds in reverse. God is the Judge of sin, and although rich men face an almost complete ban from consideration for salvation, God might offer one or other of them an improbable gift of eternal life, and only God knows why He will do it, if He has a reason at all. But the underlying Christian belief, as it was with the Essenes, is that God is not capricious, so that what we can only call a gift, God has His reasons for it.

It is not a good bet to gamble that God will be benign to the rich man at Judgement Day when during His incarnation on earth, He said unmistakably clearly that for all practical purposes it was impossible for a rich man to get into God’s kingdom. So, gift or no gift, it remains true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.

If that is not plain enough for you capitalistic Christians, defending the rich, you ought to read this parable that Jesus told:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.

The rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot. Neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:19-31

It is hard to see how this parable can be read in any way other than the obvious and direct one that being rich can mortally damage your hope for an afterlife, if that is still any attraction to rich Christians. In the story related above, meant to be an actual incident in Jesus’s life, not a parable, the rich man is less attracted to the notion of being saved than he is to his bags of gold. So Jesus knew what the rich were like, and he even ends the parable of Dives and Lazarus by saying that even someone rising from the dead will not persuade them that riches are the “wages of sin”!

That turned out to be a true prophesy, and all of these US Christian apologists for the rich man’s economic scam prove it!

Is Christian Morality More Socialist or More Capitalist?

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It has been amusing over the last few days reading, and even participating in, the debate in The Washington Post on whether Christianity should favor socialism or capitalism. The leading article From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity was written by Gregory Paul who argued in favor of Socialism but offered several hostages to fortune in introducing Ayn Rand into the debate, and implying that socialism was necessarily coercive. Two other articles followed refuting Gregory Paul’s argument. One was worthless, written by some Catholic member of the Discovery Institute, and another one, almost as bad but written I believe by a pair of evangelical lawyers, David French and Jordan Sekulow, was titled The Impossibility of a Socialist Jesus.

One of the points Gregory Paul made was that of the sharing of possessions in the first Christian community described in Acts. The act of sharing was so important to them that Luke, if he is the author, described how two supposed recruits, Ananias and his wife, Saphira, are struck dead for not sharing fully. They held back some of their wealth. The Christian lawyers claim the God killed the wicked pair for lying not for failing to share all of the money with the community. They say the notion of an honest lawyer is an oxymoron. It seems it is when it is a right wing preaching lawyer!

The ordinary US Christian is not noted for reading the book they value so highly, so they are easily fooled by right wing pastors and lawyers who cite things selectively. The full story of Ananias and Saphira starts at Acts 4:32, as follows:

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet. And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:32; 34-37

It says they all had their things in common. The apostles’ community had set its rules, and Ananias and Saphira broke the rules by trying to deceive the community. People joined voluntarily, but once they had, they had to follow the rules. That is true of any just society, surely. As Gregory Paul had said, these early Christians in Acts held everything in common, so Ananias and Saphira were holding from the group some of their wealth, thereby breaking the community’s rules. They need not have become Christians so could have kept their house as their own, or sold it and disposed of their money just how they liked, but they had joined the community of Christians and so were obliged to give up all their wealth. It is justice.

Capitalist societies are not just. In the UK a lot of unemployed young people have been rioting, and not a few employed people too. Why? They have no prospects, and they have just seen politicians and bankers robbing the public purse by billions without being severely punished, or even being properly regulated. When cheating is so transparent in society people get angry. It seems that Peter got angry with Ananias and Saphira, and as the group’s enforcer, dealt with them.

Desperate to avoid the obvious crime, breaking the socialistic rules of the apostles’ community, Christians like to emphasize that Peter in quizzing Ananias wanted to know why he had lied that they had given all the proceeds of their sale when they had not. The crime was lying, they say, not the deed of withholding. Well naturally withholding necessitated lying but breaking the community’s rule was the primary crime and the reason for the consequent lying. But Peter does not ask Saphira why she lied when she arrived a while later. He says:

Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

The Christian lawyers justify capitalism by justifying cheating, though lying is a capital crime in God’s eyes, it seems. Well capitalism depends on both for one necessitates the other. It is quite true that many people have tried to be honest dealers while practising capitalism, but ultimately it is impossible. Christian bankers, politicians and lawyers prove it, all too transparently, and, in the end, the oppressed masses will not put up with it.

The political idea of socialism might not have arisen until the nineteenth century, but it is an ancient economic system, and unarguably the one that the first Christians adopted!