Posts Tagged ‘Essenes’
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.
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.
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:
- an enigmatic symbol on ossuary 2, possibly stylized Greek or Hebrew letters reading Yod Heh Vav Heh or YHWH, though interpretation is speculative
- 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
- an indecipherable word in Greek letters on ossuary 4, possibly a name beginning with JO…
- a four line Greek inscription on ossuary 5
- a series of images on ossuary 6, including the large image of a fish with the stickman supposedly emerging from its mouth.
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
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.
Jesus’s sexuality is utterly ignored by Christians. Why are Christians—like those represented by the Christian Coalition International Canada Inc—so upset to think that their incarnated God, Jesus, might have been homosexual? Though the gospel image of Jesus is that of a tolerant pacifist, a large proportion of Christians do not recognize this as Jesus, certainly in the way they think and behave themselves. Of course, the gospel image of Jesus is most likely concocted by the early Christians, but literal biblicists are supposed to believe in the bible literally read, and the bible literally read is ambiguous about the sexuality of Jesus. Indeed, the impression given of Jesus is that he had no interest in sex at all, and if that were so then he must have been a god, because no normal man could possibly not be sexually inclined.
Of course, one can eschew sexual activity in practice, but one cannot suppress it completely, mentally. The obvious explanation of Jesus not being sexually active is that he was a member of the order of Essenes, one branch of which did not indulge in sexual activity because it was considered to be symptomatic of humanity and not the angels, who were not sexual creatures, being immortal. The Essenes aspired to be angels, and so gave up sex. Thus they believed they were purer, more perfect and more adjusted to the heavenly life.
Now, it is possible that even this concept of sexual purity did not prevent the Essene monks from indulging in homosexuality. The reason is that they could have justified homosexuality as being non-procreative, and the angels were asexual because they had no need of procreation. Humans needed sex to procreate the human race because immortality had been denied them by God as a consequence of primeval sin, probably seen as sexual activity anyway. Let the punishment fit the crime, was God’s principle in this reasoning. The human race were condemned to being sexual so that they could propagate themselves. A forbidden pleasure, stolen contrary to God’s wishes, had led to sex being a necessity with all the anguish it produced. Homosexuality was not a necessity however. It was not part of the punishment because it was not for procreation.
Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, the Goldsmiths’ Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge, is a metallurgist and materials scientist who claims in a book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, to have solved what F F Bruce once hyped as “the thorniest problem in the New Testament”. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke say that the Last Supper coincided with Jewish Passover, a Thursday, while John claims it was the day before, a Wednesday. Astronomical data, textual research and the emergence of a miraculously ancient Jewish calendar handed down by none other than Moses have convinced this Cambridge academic that Christ was actually crucified on 1 April, 33 AD—the greatest April Fool’s day of all time.
Humphreys says we can use “science and the gospels hand in hand” to prove that there is no contradiction in the two Last Supper days. His answer is a different calendar, but that is far from a new idea. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls various scholars have realized that the Essenes of Qumran, assuming that the scrolls are theirs, used a solar calendar different from the lunar-solar one used by the Jewish temple authorities. Since there is a mass of evidence that suggests that Christ was an Essene by culture, it seems quite likely that the apparent difference in the day when the Last Supper was held in the Synoptic Gospels and John offered a likely solution to F F Bruce’s thorny problem. Arguments were put forward in The Hidden Jesus, and on the AW! website, addressing questions like these, and the date of the crucifixion—which was actually in 21 AD! Even the pope in 2007, was ready to believe Jesus may have followed the solar calendar of the Qumran community. Humphreys says:
The problem with this is that under that system Passover would have fallen a week later, after both the Last Supper and Christ’s death
It seems that Humphreys knows details of the Essene solar calendar unknown to mortals. But then he is a Christian, and Christians have the gift of sudden certainty! Whatever suits their interpretation of their Christian belief system suddenly becomes certain! The Essene calendar turns out to be no use, so can certainly be discarded, the great scientist has decided. Instead, he suggests for the first time that another calendar was also in use, making three in use simultaneously!
The official Jewish calendar at the time of Jesus’ death seems to have been the one still used by Jews today, a lunar system in which days run from sunset to sunset. This was the calendar brought in by the Persians who colonized Yehud from Babylon in the fifth century BC. Working out quite how the Essenes and the Temple worshipping Jews managed to co-ordinate their lives when they had a calendar each is hard enough, but now a third one has emerged, it is getting rather silly.
Sillier still, Humphreys thinks it was “adapted from Egyptian usage at the time of Moses”. The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament says God instructed Moses and Aaron to start their year at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. Humphreys argues that this system would have been an adaptation of a lunar calendar used by the Egyptians, in which the start of the year was changed to be in the spring, and conveniently it dates Passover in 33 AD to the Wednesday of Holy Week, already decided upon by Humphreys and his chum, Oxford astrophysicist, Graeme Waddington, in 1983. This then identified the date of Jesus’s crucifixion as the morning of Friday, 3 April 33 AD, which has since been widely accepted by Christians. If Jesus died on 3 April, the standard Jewish calendar of 33 AD would have placed his crucifixion on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. The Passover meal, however, falls on the 15th, supporting John’s account, but not those of the other gospels.
Plainly, this is God at work. It is a miracle. A calendar was handed down in a mythical story by a mythical being around 1300 BC, and suddenly pops up being used by the reincarnated God and his chums in the very week of his death just as he was about to cross into the promised land of God’s kingdom. Who could fail to be a Christian now?
It seems that by choosing the Wednesday of the Passover, Jesus was identifying himself with Moses. He then died on Nisan 14th, just as the Passover lambs were being slain according to the official Jewish calendar as well. Humphreys says with Christian assurance:
These are deep, powerful symbolisms and through the use of this calendar they can be based on objective, historical evidence.
So this is objective historical evidence of a mythical man, the preservation of a calendar over the astonishingly long time of a thousand years by illiterate slaves, who gave rise to a mythical empire, mythical kings, and then disappeared with scarcely a trace for hundreds of years before turning up in Persia! Professor Humphreys is a scientist and ought indeed to be capable of objective work, but he is first and foremost a Christian, a man brought up as a young earth creationist who confessed he was shocked to learn, only at university, that the earth was not young! He was chairman of Christians in Science from 1994-2001, and is associated with the Templeton Foundation.
Of course, all his best chums and coreligionists support him in his skulduggery. Alan Millard of Liverpool University gurgles:
By linking scientific knowledge with biblical study, Colin Humphreys gives a welcome demonstration of a way apparent contradictions in the gospel texts may be reconciled.
That is obviously so, were it true. Another chum and coreligionist, Hugh G M Williamson of Oxford University says these…
…suggestions are likely to have a significant impact both on scholarly appraisal and on the regular Christian appreciation of these climactic events of the faith.
Ah! This is more like it. Nothing here to do with scientific knowledge, objective or historical evidence, just an appreciation of these climactic events of faith.
No doubt professor Humphreys will get a Templeton prize for this, but many things remain puzzling, not least how a mythical being, Moses, was able to devise a calendar that was still in use 1500 years after his nominal lifetime—a double miracle to begin with. What is it about religions that saps people’s brains and sucks away any principles they ought to have had? Didn’t Humphreys think any lessons were worth taking from his discovery that the earth was not 6000 years young, and the author of Genesis was wrong. Christians think it is God, don’t they? Suddenly, they have to help the poor old chap out. He is a bit old, after all!
Science, as yet, has no way of turning myth into objective truth and history, so Humphreys’ theory can only be bunkum. The book, in short, cannot be worth reading. Even so, to help you make up your own mind, here are the chapter headings:
- Three mysteries of the last week of Jesus
- Dating the crucifixion – the first clues
- The problem of the last supper
- Can we reconstruct the Jewish calendar at the time of Christ?
- The date of the crucifixion
- The moon will be turned to blood
- The Passover puzzle and the calendar of Moses
- Did Jesus use the solar Passover calendar of Qumran?
- The date of the last supper: the hidden clue in the synoptic gospels
- Was the Moses calendar used in Israel at the time of Jesus?
- The Galilean Passover and the date of the last supper
- From the last supper to the crucifixion
- The last days of Jesus: an overview