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Posts Tagged ‘Essenes

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.


Written by mikemagee

19 August, 2012 at 9:41 pm

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

Was Jesus Asexual, Heterosexual or Homosexual?

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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.

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Written by mikemagee

20 June, 2011 at 6:09 pm

The Eucharist and Excommunication as a Punishment in the Early Church

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Having abrogated the law of Moses as an hindrance to conversion of gentiles to the new universal Judaism of Christianity, the bishops quickly had to impose a plethora of new rules to keep their burgeoning congregations in order. The converts had to remain “in communion” with the church, and so partaking of the Eucharist was obligatory.

From very early in gentile Christianity, the new Christians had to bring their children into the church for the holy communion of the Eucharist—even infants! The administration of the Eucharist to children continued in France, according to Bingham’s Antiquities of the Christian Church, until the twelfth century. Adults were required to receive it every day, though it declined to four times a week in some churches and then declined continually until the Middle Ages, when so many churches were empty that Christians were ordered to take communion at least once a year.

The early pressure to take the Eucharist was compelling because clergy taught that it was essential to eternal life. It was held in great reverence, and the bishops had complete power over who would receive it, giving them immense control over the Christian slaves of God. Worshippers were not allowed to approach the Eucharistic table unless suitably physically and morally pure and expiated of sin by penance.

Again, the bishops had absolute authority over the magnitude of the sin and its punishment. Examples were prolonged absence from church, unchastity, prostitution, adultery, becoming a gladiator or actor, betrayal of Christians to the authorities, pederasty, homosexuality. Note how many sins were sexual in nature, and had little to do with Christ’s moral concerns. Abstention from sexual activity, a personal choice for Essenes, except for those of the highest orders, was made obligatory for gentile Christians. Because of the presumed imminence of the End, Jesus, John and their successors, had had to initiate many who came to them hoping to join God’s coming Kingdom without any detailed teaching of Essene practices. The later bishops, especially the gentiles ones misled by Paul, imagined the celibacy of the senior Essenes had to be followed by everyone.

The punishment varied according to the seriousness of the sin, as judged by the bishop. A short period of withdrawal from the Eucharist was the minimum. As the bishop judged the sin as more and more serious, the period of denial of the Eucharist increased to years and then up to the sinner’s whole life! There was worse! The sin could merit denial of the communion for the whole of eternity—excommunication. These punishments seem to have derived from the punishments of the Essene sectaries. Moreover, during the period of penance, when the Eucharist was denied to the errant Christian, the penitent was obliged to abstain from all sexual relationships, even with their spouse, and, indeed, any other pleasure. Every spare minute was to be spent doing religious exercises.

At the end of the period of penance, the sinner had to appear before the congregation dressed in sackcloth, with a shaven head, and covered in ashes. They had to fall in submission, like a Moslem, before the bishop, openly confess their sins and publicly beg for absolution.

Excommunication meant denial of all Christian sacraments, and the severance of all communication with any Christian—exactly what the errant Essene had to suffer. For them it meant death, for they had to eat grass, as they could not accept any unsanctified food such as that offered by anyone not in the order.

The control exercised by the bishops over their flocks amounted to religious terrorism and despotism. Bishops could permit or deny what Christians were led to believe were rites essential to their salvation. It certainly impressed upon Christian converts the enormity of the consequences of being immoral—the conviction that eternal retribution would follow—but few of the sins had anything to do with what Christ taught as reasons for damnation, like failing to love others, or hoarding wealth. And it granted to certain men, the clergy, who were in general no less sinners than other human beings, a fascistic authority that led the Church itself into gross sins and unforgiveable crimes.

Sources: Lecky, History of European Morals

Written by mikemagee

1 June, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Banning Homosexuality is “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel”

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David Bahati, a Ugandan MP, influenced by three American evangelicals seeking favor with God by spreading their bent version of Christianity, introduced a parliamentary bill to deal with the around half a million gay people in Uganda. The bill would ban all forms of homosexuality, jail homosexuals, and hang the most persistent. The Archbishop of Canterbury along with many people from around the world objected, and the bill was suspended. It has reappeared and again disappeared, but plainly the movers of the bill are working hard to get it accepted as a motion, and passed by the Uganda Parliament.

Alan Wilson, an Anglican bishop, writes about this bill in the UK Guardian. In the face of the attempted evangelical take-over of the Anglican Church, bishop Wilson stands squarely as a Christian, on the ground that the Ugandan bill contravenes basic Christian teaching, and those Christians who are supporting and indeed pushing forward the bill, are not one iota Christian.

The bill treats homosexuality as monolithic—it is one wilful Christian error, and, moreover, it is a western import to the formerly distinct sexuality of east Africa, ignoring the martyrdom of 25 young men by Kabaka Mwanga in 1886. Worse, the bill violates basic principles of justice, including the human rights of its victims defined by the UN. Apparently accepting this, some promoters seem ready to reject the UN declaration to clear the way for it, rather than surrender “their queer-bashing law”. The bill will turn Anglican vicars into agents of the state, and forbid them from listening to gay Christians, as the 1998 Lambeth conference committed the whole Anglican communion.

It is not a question of liking homosexuality or otherwise. Bishop Wilson notes that Jesus had friends, like Nicodemus, who were Pharisees. Nevertheless, Jesus frequently criticized Pharisees, though he had similar ideas to those of the Pharisees in significant matters. After all, they were all Jews. Jesus generally did not object to what Pharisses wrote, but did object to their own way of interpreting it in practice, their lifestyle. Regarding them, he taught:

Do what they say, not what they do.

Their basic teaching of the Mosaic law was valid, but they had the idea that they could help prevent pious Jews from inadvertantly breaking the law by building around it “a wall” of lesser specific laws that were easier to comprehend and remember. As Wilson puts it, “Pharisees saw themselves as God’s minders”.

It was counterproductive. The Essenes thought it a theological error to hide the law behind a wall. What God had intended, they thought, was that Jews should understand the law itself, its meaning and importance and obey it as it is, not that God’s law should disappear behind a wall to make it, in some sense easier not to break. It meant their lesser precepts became paramount, yet there were far more of them, and ultimately their intention was far from clear to ordinary Jews. The basic law of God was compromised, Wilson says, because seemingly pettifogging subsidiary laws became regarded as inviolable, and apparently pointless, when their original purpose was not adequately explained.

For example, Jews were supposed to bathe in sufficient water to cover a man, but the Pharisees specified a minimum measured amount that would suffice, hoping to ensure that every Jew could not inadvertantly break the law. But before long pious Jews began to think the precise measure, meant to protect the actual law, which was vaguer, was what was important to God, and so had to take tedious care to measure out the right quantity of water! Jesus, who was most likely an Essene himself, called this “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel”.

Cherry picking the few Bible texts that could be interpreted as saying anything about homosexuality, the Ugandan bill strips them of their context and imposes them harshly in a way that would be disproportionate for serious crimes.

Straining at a tiny but contentious gnat, it swallows a sociopathic, genocidal camel.

The Ugandan bill is unchristian and uncivilised. It criminalises a few people and threatens their lives. The civilised world must urge that Uganda’s honorable members of Parliament will be decent enough to see it is wicked. If it were to become an act of the Ugandan parliament, it will violate not only the golden rule, “as you would that people should do unto you, do likewise to them” but also Jesus’s summary of the whole law, “love God and love your neighbor”. The secular Christian regards God as a personification of society, He stands for all your neighbors, so loving God implies loving your neighbor, but Christ made it clear in his sermon regarding the Judgement on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 25:31-46) that is what his Father meant by it.

Written by mikemagee

15 May, 2011 at 9:33 pm

What Matters Most, Christ’s Resurrection or His Moral Teaching?

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Walter Albritton, a Methodist minister, tells how, as a boy, he used to go with his parents to see a dramatization of the rising of Jesus as told in Matthew, except, curiously, he has three not two women going to the tomb on the morning after the sabbath—a careless lapse, perhaps. It was sufficient to persuade him that the story was true because he was merely a lad, and naturally believed what he was told by his parents. He writes in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Years later, I began to question. Is it really true? Perhaps, as some say, the resurrection story is a myth. I wondered and struggled with the issue for awhile.

It seems he did not struggle long, for he decided “it is impossible to explain the Christian movement unless Jesus was actually raised from the dead”, and plainly enough ended up as a minister. Needless to say, he did not explain quite why he could not find any other explanation for Christianity starting up other than its foundation myth of a man being brought back to life being a true story. Instead, he poses his readers a few leading questions.

Could a lie about the resurrection be perpetuated for 2,000 years?

If, by a lie, minister Albritton means something that is not true, then the answer is a plain, “yes”! People have believed falsehoods for much longer than 2000 years, though they believed them to be true. A simple example is believing the sun moves around the earth, when the earth itself is actually rotating. By describing an erroneous belief as “a lie”, Albritton is tilting the pin ball machine! He is prejudicing the reader into thinking the first believers were tricked or were themselves doing the tricking, and they are resistant to either thought.

What, though, stops these sincere believers from simply being mistaken in thinking their erstwhile leader had risen when his corpse had simply been removed from the tomb?

The little boy Albritton would have been persuaded by the parade of Roman guards on duty outside the Easter show tomb, but it is a story only Matthew has and he explains that it proves the body could not have been stolen, an admission that people had already, before Matthew wrote a word, been protesting that the corpse of Jesus had been removed. No other gospel has the story about the Roman guards, and it makes the Roman guards the eyewitnesses to the resurrection, a story Matthew then has to refute by saying the guards had been asleep on duty! The corpse therefore could have been stolen anyway because the guards were asleep.

But could the early disciples have stolen his body from the tomb, while the guards were sleeping, and then convinced hundreds of people that Jesus was alive? Saying that it was so surely would not convince anyone.

Albritton leaps to the conclusion that only the disciples would have wanted to steal the corpse, that they wanted to do it deliberately to fool others into thinking Jesus had been resurrected, and had then gone around propagating what they knew was a lie. Again the presentation of an explanation in this tendentious manner can only be to prejudice his readers against a perfectly feasible explanation when presented otherwise. The Romans might have kept the body in case the disciples had tried to persuade his followers that Jesus was actually still alive. Displaying the corpse would have scotched any rumors that started along those lines.

More likely is that Jesus was an Essene leader, and the Essenes had removed his body for a proper burial with the ritual suited to an honoured leader. His simple converts were not aware of this, and they it was who took it for granted that he had been the first of the saints (Essenes) to have been resurrected at the general resurrection of the righteous that they were expecting at the End of the World. These simple converts were the first Christians, and they believed what Christ had told them—that the world was about to end. Then the righteous and the truly repentant Jews would be resurrected into God’s kingdom. They had been sinners, but had repented and sincerely believed they too would be resurrected when the world finally did end. Christians believe this still. The first believers were not liars and were not dishonest. they simply believed what they had been told, and the disappearance of Christ’s body encouraged them to think he had been resurrected. He had not been, but his followers thought he had been. Does Albritton get it now? There had been no resurrection in fact, but the first Christians sincerely thought there had been!

If Jesus had not been resurrected, it is obvious we would never have heard of his apostles. But we did hear about them; they were so convinced that Jesus was alive they were willing to suffer and die for this new faith. The evidence is overwhelming that the early Christians were willing to be martyred rather than renounce their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Would anyone be willing to die in defense of a lie?

Albritton persists in suggesting to his readers that only lying apostles could explain Christian belief without miracles, and naturally no Christian will ever think the first Christians could have lied. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the twelve apostles died for their faith. Christian belief is based on the same sort of evidence as the resurrection of Christ himself. Christians have been told the stories and they believe them. If a false tale is necessarily a lie, then in some cases at least, it is likely that the stories of the apostles all suffering and dying for their belief are lies. The same argument as that given above applies, however. The followers really believed the general resurrection had begun.

Evidence of this is present in Matthew 27:52-53 where “many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised”. Did Albritton and his own Christian admirers ever notice that Jesus Christ was not the only man in the New Testament at the time to have been raised from the dead? Many were resurrected and they went into the city and appeared to many others! Matthew himself believed the general resurrection had started when Christ rose. Why then would they not sincerely think they could be martyred without any fear? They were convinced they would join Christ in the general resurrection. That is supposed to be the point of Christianity, though these days they all believe in a spiritual resurrection in heaven, not an actual bodily resurrection, even though the raising of Jesus was plainly a resurrection of his physical body into this world, not the raising up of a ghost. John 20:26-29 goes to extremes to show that the resurrection was a real bodily one, not a spiritual resurrection into some other place, such that any quack medium would wish to publicize!

At the end of his brief struggle, Albritton yielded to his childhood indoctrination that the resurrection is “the lynchpin of Christianity”.

If one does not believe in the resurrection, there is little else in Christian faith that makes sense.

What was the purpose then of Christ’s extended acts and teachings? Albritton tells us God’s earthly life as Christ, and the lessons He offered His human creatures were just packaging for the brief but dramatic act of God’s one off self immolation which has to be taken or left not on sound evidence but an incredible story and a confidence trick called faith. If that is so, Christianity is worthless. The moral teaching of Christ does not make sense, Albritton avers, proving that he is a shyster not a moral physician.

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then Peter’s letters would be a pack of lies.

“Letters” is plural but scholars consider only one of the two letters attributed to Peter in the New Testament has any chance of being genuine, and there is even doubt about that. So, one of “Peter’s letters” is a pack of lies inasmuch as it purports to be written by Peter but was actually written around a century after Peter had died. Indeed everyone except Christians know that there is no contemporary external evidence that any of the gospel stories are true. They are set in some historical setting, but then so too are almost all fictional stories that have been written. Incidental references to historical people and places are no proof of the truth of the stories! Much of it could indeed be a pack of lies mainly composed many years after the events that initiated the myths to explain and justify Christian belief as it had emerged at a later date and in different places.

Had Jesus not been resurrected, we would have never heard of the Apostle Paul, who wrote a great portion of the New Testament.

That is plainly false. Paul, like other early Christians taught that the resurrection had happened either because he believed what he had heard about the supposed disappearance of Christ’s corpse being because the dead man had been resurrected, or because he was the archetypal cynic for whom the story was a great way of earning a good living as a travelling charletan. Paul has been treated as the true founder of Christianity by Christians precisely because he taught an utterly different basis for living from Christ. Christ taught that people should be moral beings. They were moral beings when they loved each other. He taught the Golden Rule that everyone should treat others as they would like others to treat them. He went further teaching that people should love even their enemies, and even further by insisting that the way to love God was by loving other people as if they were God! By so doing, they would be considered for acceptance into the kingdom of God.

Paul taught quite a different outlook. It was that people would enter the Kingdom of God by merely having faith in Christ. Merely professing Christianity made people into Christians and earned them salvation. They had to do nothing. Phenomena like love of others would simply emerge from faith as a symptom of it. This is a much more acceptable belief than Christ’s for the simple reason that people are duped into thinking that salvation requires no effort, or only a little. Priests and pastors, human vampires out to suck mites from widows and orphans, just like Paul, naturally preferred his successful teaching for its benefits to them as a caste. They ignore almost totally the teaching of Christ, supposedly God incarnated as a man of flesh and bone, in favour of Paul’s mystical fusion of Judaism and the Eastern mystery religions centered on Christ as a dying and rising God like Attis, Tammuz and Adonis.

We would not even have a New Testament had not the early disciples believed God had raised Jesus from the dead.

At last Albritton gets something right. The disciples did believe Jesus had risen, and they told others of their belief, and the story has passed down to today. They believed it, but to believe something—like the motion of the sun around the earth—is no proof that it is true. Christians have always believed, but it is quite dishonest to pretend that only a genuine resurrection could have started the myth. People will believe what they have been conditioned to believe, and those Jewish followers of Jesus genuinely believed what Jesus had told them about the coming End of the World. They were not sophisticated people, and they were terribly oppressed by a ferociously ruthless military occupying power, the Romans. They wanted a better world to begin, one in which suffering innocents would be rewarded. There are many in the world today similarly oppressed by modern Romans!

Some say it does not matter whether Jesus was resurrected or not. His great moral teachings are what matter… But this is so much hogwash! Jesus believed that by dying on the cross as the Passover Lamb of God all people could receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Can one value anything else he taught if this teaching is a grand hoax? Surely not!

Why not? The important part of Christ’s teaching, even as recorded in the gospels, was a moral way of living, and particularly, as shown above, the way we should treat each other. These teachings make sense in human terms because we are social animals who depend upon society for our existence. Sociality is precisely what Christ taught. Christians refer to communion and fellowship, ways of living together amicably in society. And these teachings are underlined by discoveries in evolutionary psychology—the fact that we have moral instincts that can only mean something in a community. Solitary animals have no need of morality. Quite the reverse, they benefit from being savage and ruthless.

Christians have abandoned Christ’s moral teaching for Paul’s mystical teaching. As a consequence morality has been lost while selfishness has burgeoned. Morality is concern for others. Faith is concern for self. Christ taught salvation is earned by service to others. Paul taught that a personal and entirely selfish faith guaranteed salvation. The disciples of Paul want to tell their own, supposedly almighty, God how He should judge them. Instead of quoting Paul’s magical and mysterious statements, Christians should get into the habit of quoting Christ’s very plain and understandable principles of personal morality. If they think Christ was God, then it ought to be a no brainer whom they should consider as the more important source in the New Testament, whether Paul wrote most of it or not. Minister Albritton ought to get out of his diapers and read Christ’s moral teaching as an adult, then maybe he would stop propagating lies, for once errors are known to be errors, then to continue propagating them metamorphoses into lying.

Written by mikemagee

30 April, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Sir Colin Humphreys—The Mystery of the Last Supper

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Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, desperately Christian!

Desperately Christian!

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:

  1. Three mysteries of the last week of Jesus
  2. Dating the crucifixion – the first clues
  3. The problem of the last supper
  4. Can we reconstruct the Jewish calendar at the time of Christ?
  5. The date of the crucifixion
  6. The moon will be turned to blood
  7. The Passover puzzle and the calendar of Moses
  8. Did Jesus use the solar Passover calendar of Qumran?
  9. The date of the last supper: the hidden clue in the synoptic gospels
  10. Was the Moses calendar used in Israel at the time of Jesus?
  11. The Galilean Passover and the date of the last supper
  12. From the last supper to the crucifixion
  13. The last days of Jesus: an overview

Written by mikemagee

19 April, 2011 at 1:54 am

Historically Diaspora Jews Never Abhorred Greek Bibles

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Solomon Schechter found important manuscripts, some of them mere fragments, in a Cairo Genizah, a repository for sacred books, and they were housed in Cambridge University Library at the end of the 19th century. Among them were some of the Essene books later found in the caves at Qumran.

Close study of the Cairo Genizah fragments by Nicholas de Lange, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies in the Cambridge Faculties of Divinity and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, showed that some contained passages from the Bible in Greek written in Hebrew letters. Others contained parts of a lost Greek translation made by a convert to Judaism named Akylas in the 2nd century CE. The fragments date from 1,000 years after the original translation into Greek, showing the Greek text was still being used in Greek speaking synagogues in the Byzantine Empire and elsewhere when most experts thought Jews had relinquished using the Septuagint. Or, as Professor de Lange put it:

It was thought that the Jews, for some reason, gave up using Greek translations and chose to use the original Hebrew for public reading in synagogue and for private study, until modern times when pressure to use the vernacular led to its introduction in many synagogues.

The Septuagint is the original Greek version of the Jewish scriptures, considered by most biblicists to have been a translation from the original Hebrew, supposedly done by seventy Hebrew scholars at the behest of the early Ptolemaic kings of Egypt who wanted a copy in Greek for their Library at Alexandria, for use by the many Jews who already lived in Egypt in the second century BC.

Gulled as easily as they are—believing the bible’s own fantastic account of Jewish history as supposedly written in God’s own hand—most scholars have believed the story that the Septuagint was translated from a miraculously ancient Hebrew original, but a more credible idea is that the bible was effectively written in its modern form only then, with some earlier partial and much cruder Hebrew and Aramaic texts as a guide. This original version was the bible of the Persian colonists sent into Yehud to set up a temple state. It consisted of the law, now called Deuteronomy, and an embryonic version of the Deuteronomistic history, providing a rough hewn core of the Jewish scriptures as a basis for the Ptolemaic elaborations called a translation. Now it has been lost, and only the Greek version would have remained were it not for Jewish scholars in Alexandria translating it into Hebrew.

Subsequently, the Hebrew version of the Septuagint has been redacted by Hasmonaean and then Rabbinical scholars to suit later developments in Judaism and Jewish politics, and to respond to the influence of Christian usage of the Septuagint itself. Modern scholars, faced with Greek and Hebrew bibles, have assumed the Septuagint was an imperfect translation of its edited Hebrew versions, taken to have been original, when the reverse is the truth. Thus De Lange can say:

The translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC is said to be one of the most lasting achievements of the Jewish civilization. Without it, Christianity might not have spread as quickly and as successfully as it did.

The new study suggests that Jews have used a Greek version of the Bible in synagogues for centuries longer than previously thought, almost continuously from the third century BC almost into, in places, living memory. There was hardly ever the aversion to the Greek scriptures that scholars have presumed, certainly among Diaspora Jews—always the majority. Even the Essenes had versions of the scriptures that were much closer to the Septuagint than Masoretic versions.

The Masoretes aimed to safeguard the Jewish integrity of the biblical text. They have a tradition that the standard text of the then canon existed as three scrolls of Torah, before 200 BC, a fact that was probably true, but those texts were either the earliest translations from the Greek, or were the law handed out by the Persians which were at the center of the original Persian scriptures of the Yehudist colony—the original core version from which the Septuagint came by an extended act of political Ptolemaic creativity. The work of the Masoretes was not considered complete until the tenth century AD (Rabbi Aaron ben Asher, 930 AD).

Manuscripts in other libraries confirmed the conclusions of the Cambridge discovery that Jews never did generally abhor Greek bibles, and added their own details. A scholar’s resource has been created following collaboration between research teams at Cambridge University, including Dr Cameron Boyd-Taylor and Dr Julia Krivoruchko, and King’s College London. Various Greek translations were in use among Jews in the Middle Ages, probably reflecting attempts by some Diaspora Jews to keep their version of the Septuagint abreast of the thinking of the rabbinical schools. Paul Spence, who led the team at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s explained:

This ambitious piece of collaborative digital scholarship required challenging technical difficulties to be solved. It draws together a wide variety of materials under a standards based framework which provides multiple entry points into the material.

The merit of this depends upon what he means by “standards based”. If the standard is the Hebrew bible, then the work is probably misleading and misguided, for it seems unlikely that the Septuagint will be regarded by many current scholars as the original standard. Yet it should be an hypothesis that deserves far more credence.

Written by mikemagee

29 December, 2010 at 3:33 pm

The Title “Father” in Christianity

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A news item somewhere informs us that John Dominic Crossan, once a Catholic priest, and now a long time member of the Jesus Seminar, has written an explanation of the Pater Noster or the Lord’s Prayer—“Our Father…” Apparently it is a prayer about the father of a household and the need to distribute the household’s food fairly. He may be a bit right!

Christians have always tried to maintain that Jesus was a member of an ordinary family, one of the motivations, no doubt, for the invention of the Birth Narratives, stories that no one in the main gospels ever refers to or seemingly knows anything about. And for the very good reason that few scholars doubt that they were later inventions tacked on to two of the gospels when they were compiled.

I cannot imagine why the prayer should not refer to God, as most Christians believe, but in the context not of people who lived in family groups, but of people who lived in religious communities, namely, the Essenes. They had a special meal, like the Eucharist, and most likely its source—the scenes where Jesus broke bread, and fed the four and five thousand—called the Messianic Meal, and it seems that the head of the table would recite the prayer on that occasion.

Jesus was an Essene beyond reasonable doubt. That Christians persistently deny it shows they are unreasonable. The Essenes were a Jewish church and, like Jews, and many others, called God their Father. To them, God was the Father of the human race, so all men were sons of God, but they were sons in a hierarchy of sons, the head of each level in the hierarchy being a father to his own sons.

Familiar? The later gentile church retained the system. Bishops, monks and priests are called father by others, monks are led by a father, an abbot, a Patriarch is a Head Father, an archbishop, and a Pope is a Father (Latin Papa, Greek, Pappas). In Aramaean, “abba” means father, and “ab” or “av” does in Hebrew. So, Barabbas means Son of the Father in Aramaean, and Barabbas was Jesus, indeed modern gospels admit that Barabbas was called Jesus!

The Essene hierarchies were not based on material status, on wealth, but on service to others. “The last is first and the first last” being an expression of rewarding service as opposed to status. God’s sons, the human race, were to be valued for their service to others, not on the basis of wealth, so the Essenes, like the apostles in Acts, held all their goods in common. They were communists. That is one big reason why American Christians cannot face up to the truth about Christ.

Mary Magdalene

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Ben Witherington makes these statements in his blog about the Jesus Family Tomb book. He is a professional Christian and is complaining about the facts offered by the authors, Charles Pellegrino and Simcha Jacobivici, a pair of ancient history sensationalists out to make money. Yet this tiny part of the professional Christian response is just as mendacious. How does he know all the early Christians in Jerusalem spoke only Aramaic, and had no Greek? Since this country had been in the Greek sphere of influence for over three centuries, it seems most unlikely. If they did speak only Aramaic, it was a deliberate choice, not because they had no Greek. As for Mary Magdalene growing up in a Jewish fishing village called Migdal, this is pure invention. No one knows what “Magdalene” means, and so it is pure conjecture that it refers to any town. If it refers to Migdal at all, it could be translated as “Mary the Tower”, implying her fortitude, or even her towering stature.

clipped from
The earliest Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, including the members of Jesus’ family and
Mary Magdalene, did not speak Greek. They spoke Aramaic. We have
absolutely no historical evidence to suggest Mary Magdalene would have
been called by a Greek name before A.D. 70. She grew up in a Jewish
fishing village called Migdal, not a Greek city at all.

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Written by mikemagee

5 March, 2007 at 7:25 pm