The Roman dogma vs history
history of Jesus, and the history of Christianity that we know today,
is the dogma that the Roman empire forced on all its provinces. When
Constantine converted to Christianity, Rome became the centre of
power for Christianity and any challenging centre was wiped out.
If Jesus had really lived, what he said and meant will never be known.
recent years, a new wave of "Historical Jesus" research has emerged in
the wake of the discovery in 1947 in Egypt of the ancient manuscripts
that are known today as the "Nag Hammadi library" and as "Gnostic
Gospels", and of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Until then, little was
known about the early Christians, known as the Gnostics. "We've
listened to the winners, and their story doesn't make any sense. So
let's listen to the losers and see if their story makes more sense"
The other gospelsMany
gospels were written, including the four official ones. The four
official gospels were written in Greece in Greek, the earliest (Marks')
dating from the year 70, and the last one (John's) dating from the
second century AD. (The oldest manuscript of the gospels that we found
dates from the fourth century, but we have fragments that have been
dated from the mid second century; and we can deduct the date of
composition from references in the texts).
There is general
agreement that three of the four official ones (the "synoptic" gospels)
derive from a common source (or Luke's and Matthew's simply derive from
Mark's), whereas John's is inherently different. One hypothesis is that
John's and this common source derive, in turn, from a pre-existing
text, called "Q", that has never been found. One of the banned gospels,
the gospel of Judas Thomas, has been considered a potential candidate
for "Q" or for something closer to "Q" than anything else we have
gospel is markedly different from the other three gospels: it names
many people who are anonymous in the other three gospels and it
includes two episodes (the wedding at Cana and the raising of Lazarus)
that the other gospels seem curiously unaware of. It "sounds" more
knowledgeable: it provides details about the early proselytizing of
Jesus and the rivalry between Jesus' sect and John the Baptist's sect.
The account of Jesus' trial and crucifixion is more credible. Yet,
John's gospel is unquestionably a later work than the other three
gospels, as we know them, have been heavily rewritten. Papias of
Hierapolis in 110 talks of the gospel of St Matthew as a collections of
oracles, not of miracles.
four official gospels were written after Paul wrote his letters. Paul's
letters are the oldest Christian documents. But Paul admits he never
met Jesus and, in fact, his letters contain almost no reference at all
to Jesus' life.
Irenaeus (at the end of the second century !)
is the first Christian writer who mentions the dogma of the four
gospels. Before him there is no mention of those gospels as being the
only "good" ones. Justin Martyr (150) does not mention a New Testament,
does not mention Mark, Matthew, Luke or John. On the other hand, he
mentions the "memoirs" of the apostles, which could be the letters and
the "gospels" attributed to Peter and others (mostly not recognized by
the Church) besides the letters of Paul and the acts of the Apostles.
In 170 Tatian admits he was working on a new gospel that would
summarize all the other ones, thereby
implying that Christians were still writing and rewriting gospels based
on their own assumptions and preferences, not on historical facts!
Also in the second century, Clement of Alexandria admits that two
versions of Mark's gospel existed but one was being suppressed because
it contained two passages that should not be viewed by average
passages could be interpreted as Lazarus being Jesus' lover and his
"resurrection" as being an "initiation" to some kind of sexual rite,
the way most pagan "mysteries" implied a death and a rebirth).
the texts were being chosen, edited and purged for the first two
centuries of the Christian era. That process had solidified by the time
Irenaeus wrote that there were only four gospels.
choice was formalized in 325 at the council of Nicaea, where those four
gospels became the official dogma of the Roman Church and all other
histories of Jesus were banned.
picked only a fraction of the available literature on Jesus. He
excluded some of the most popular texts, such as the gospel of Thomas
and the gospel of the Hebrews (by far the two most popular texts among
early Christians). Either the memory was lost of what was old and what
was new (Irenaeus claims that Mark and Luke were eyewitness which of
course they were not) or the Church was already at work to completely
reinvent the story of Jesus to suit whatever ideology. For example, if
one wanted people to believe in Paul's letters, then he would probably
choose those four gospels over all the other ones. The fact is that the
dogma immediately ignited a very contentious issue.
outlawed by Rome paint a very different picture of Jesus' teaching,
especially the ones written by the "gnostic" Christians. Sometimes
Jesus appears as a sort of communist revolutionary, sometimes as a sort
of Buddhist thinker. In the most ancient texts he rarely appears as the
Jesus who makes miracles and ascended to heaven, and sometimes does not
appear at all. Sometimes he barely appears at all, while others (James,
Paul) are the predominant characters. Peter, the most famous of Jesus'
followers, is actually a very minor figure in early Christian
it is sometimes difficult to understand why some gospels were banned.
Several of the banned gospels are apparently consistent with the dogma:
why ban them? The devil is probably in the details: in 325 Christianity
had become the religion of the Roman empire and it was not nice to
emphasize that it was the Romans who had killed Jesus. In 325,
Christianity had taken the beliefs that would become the Catholic
dogma, and it was not nice to emphasize that Jesus had brothers
(although even the official gospels say so) or that Mary Magdalene was
always with him (although even the official gospels say so) and it was
nice to undermine Jesus' miracles. Most of the gospels may have been
considered redundant (they didn't add anything meaningful to the story)
and dangerous (they could stress aspects of Jesus' story that the
Church would rather downplay).
gnostic Christians were persecuted after Rome converted to Christianity
and most of their texts were burned. The church also outlawed all other
histories of Jesus but the four official ones.
there was strong disagreement among Christians about what Christianity
was all about. The Christian dogma was formalized by a series of
councils, whose conclusions were largely arbitrary.
The council of Nicaea (325) mandated that only four gospels were true:
the others were heretic. The council of Ephesus (431) sanctioned that
the divine nature of Jesus was superior to his human nature. The
council of Calcedonia (451) accepted pope Leone I's theory that Jesus
was both human and divine (and this was based on Greek philosophy, not
on historical evidence or on the gospels' testimony).
than the gospels, we know of early Christianity mainly through the
Jewish historian Josephus (37-96 AD), but he himself became a Roman
citizen and even an advisor to two emperors. Two centuries later,
Eusebius and Irenaeus wrote about the origins of the Christian
religion. Both of them basically codified Christianity as we know it.
Irenaeus makes the oldest known claim that there are only four official
gospels and the others are work of the devil. Eusebius (who was working
for Constantine and even wrote his biography) compiled a history of the
Roman church from Peter on (Eusebius wrote that the emperor is the
vehicle of God on earth).
The early ChristiansRome
was obviously not the place where Christianity had been born, and was
not the cultural centre of the world. Christianity first spread in
Palestine and Syria, then east to Armenia (the first country to
convert) and to Greece, that was the cultural centre of the empire.
When the apostles spread, Peter went to Rome, but others went
elsewhere. Notably, Taddeus went to Armenia.
Paul went to Greece. The first community to call themselves Christians
was in Syria. The man whom most (including Paul) considered the head of
Christianity was James the Just, who remained in Palestine. These were
all equal centres of Christianity. It was only after the Roman
conversion that the Roman branch of Christianity became the official
one, and the lineage back to Peter (the popes) was recognized as the
only lineage worth knowing. It was then that only four gospels (probably written in Greece between 66 and the end of the second century)
were accepted as true, even if for centuries several others had
circulated. It was then that competing branches of Christianity were
persecuted and annihilated.
accounts for the rapid spread of Christianity around the Roman empire?
It is not clear how many Christians there really were before
Constantine forced the entire Roman empire to convert to Christianity,
but it is reasonable to assume that at least a good number of them
lived in Rome and in various provinces of the middle East. In the year
70, following a Jewish rebellion, Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and
expelled the Jews. That act may be responsible for the spread of
Christianity: Jews of the Christian faith certainly ended up (as
slaves) in Rome and probably (as refugees) in several middle-eastern
provinces. While it is a mystery how they could make so many proselytes
so quickly, it is quite normal that they could be found all around the
eastern Roman empire. The number of proselytes (if it was indeed as
high as the Church wants us to believe) could be explained in a simple
way by assuming that there were already many Christians in Palestine
itself, which, of course, would be possible only if Christianity was
widely more popular than the official gospels admit and if Christianity predated Jesus !
Pre-existing legends and the gospelsThe
Roman dogma is a mixture of historical and pre-existing themes.
Mithraism, a religion derived from Zoroastrism, was very popular in
Rome at the same time that Christianity was spreading. Mithras was
believed to be the son of the sun, sent to the earth to rescue
humankind. Two centuries before the appearance of Jesus, the myth of
Mithras held that Mithras was born of a virgin on December 25 in a
cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds.
sacrificed himself, and on his last day, had a supper with twelve of
his followers. At that supper Mithras invited his followers to eat his
body and drink his blood. He was buried in a tomb and after three days
rose again. Mithras' festival coincided with the Christian Easter. This legend dates from at least one century before Jesus.
It was absorbed in the Roman dogma. Jesus' attitude often resembles the
legendary Greek philosopher Socrates (e.g. the way he refuses to
respond to Pilate).
Egyptian god Osiris was also born on the 25th of December, died on a
Friday and resurrected after spending three days in the underworld.
Roman god Dionysus was hailed as `The Saviour of Mankind' and `The Son
of God'. Dionysus was born (on December 25) when Zeus visited
Persephone. Therefore, his father is God and his mother is a mortal
Announced by a star, he is born in a cowshed and visited
by three Magis. He turns water into wine and raises people from the
dead. He is followed by twelve apostles. Dionysus' resurrection was a
popular myth throughout the Roman empire, although his name was
different in each country. The rituals in honor of Dionysus included a
meal of bread and wine, symbolizing his body and blood. An amulet of
the 3rd century has been found that depicts a crucified man
(unmistakably Jesus) but bears the inscription "Orpheus Bacchus", which
was yet another name for Dionysus.
The 5th century Egyptian poet
Nonnus wrote two long epic poems in Greek, one on the conquest of the
world by Dionysus, and the other a verse paraphrase of one of the
Christian gospels. Unfortunately, we know little of the Dionysus' faith
because in 396 a mob of fanatical Christians destroyed the sanctuary of
Eleusis, likely to have been the largest religious centre in the world.
We only know that the rituals were very popular and lasted several
early Christians revered Dionysus's birthday as Jesus' birthday
(Christmas) and the three-day Spring festival of Dionysus roughly
coincides with Easter. Jews had their own version of this festival (the
"therapeutae") since at least the year 10 (it is reported by Philo of
Alexandria), which is 23 years before the crucifixion of Jesus
(Armenians still celebrate the birthday of Jesus on January 6).
most credible theory of why the Christians of the third century chose
the 25th of December as Jesus' birthday instead of the first of January
is that the 25th of December was already a major holiday, a festival
called "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti" instituted before 220 AD).
Jesus lived right at the beginning of the Roman empire.
first emperor, "Augustus", had the title of "saviour of the human
race". The legend was that Augustus had been born nine months after his
mother was "visited" by the god Apollo. The greatest Roman poet of all
time, Virgil, had foretold in 40BC that a king would be born of a
virgin. It was false, but it was widely believed by ordinary Romans
that, in the year of Augustus' birth, the Roman senate had ordered the
murder of all other children.
Pre-existing legends and current events influenced the way the official gospels were selected and doctored. Some
scholars have even suggested the entire history of Jesus is a myth,
based on pre-existing myths that were assembled by "gnostic" Jews.
official gospels were carefully chosen and edited to reflect a view
acceptable to the Roman authorities and audience. For example, the
official gospels blamed the Jews for killing Jesus, even if, of course,
it was the Romans who killed him (for sedition). The earliest account
of the life of Jesus, St Mark's gospel, was written during the Jewish
rebellion of 66. It was not a time to claim that Jesus was a Jewish
revolutionary. Jesus, in fact, is presented as a victim of the Jews.
Roman reaction to ChristiansThe
only Roman reaction to Christians that is popular today is the
persecution that killed thousands of them. No doubt those deaths truly
happened. But Christians forget to add that all sorts of people were
executed by the Roman empire. The Roman empire showed no mercy for the
slightest indication of sedition.
is another reaction, though, that is almost unique to the Christian
case: mockery. Several Roman commentators seemed to be less than
impressed by the new faith. Celsus, in particular, pokes fun at
Christian beliefs and rites as if it was merely a modern variation on
pagan beliefs and rites. His attitude can be compared to the attitude
of conservative adults towards the hippies in the 1960s.
great historian Tacitus mentions the Christians as a degenerate bunch,
and talks of their "degrade and shameful practices". Hardly the
description one would use for spiritual people.
early Christian writers such as Justin and Tertullian felt that they
had to defend Christianity from such accusations. Early Christian
literature is full of references to pagan legends and myths as work of
the Devil for the simple reason that Christians adopted the very same
legends and myths and the only explanation would be that the Devil was
playing a prank on them by pretending that those legends and myths had
existed before Jesus.
Paul's ChristianityChristianity as it is today, is really what Paul wanted it to be. But ... Paul was not one of the twelve, and candidly admits that he never met Jesus in person.
a Roman citizen and proud of it, favoured equal treatment for Jews and
non-Jews, but there is no evidence that this was also the view of the
is interesting that Paul only wrote two facts about Jesus' life: that
he was crucified, and that he had several brothers, including one named
James whom he also refers to, implicitly, as the leader of the
Either he didn't know much about Jesus, or whatever
he knew was "espunged" from the New Testament as embarrassing to the
Roman dogma. It is interesting that the Roman dogma (Christianity as we
know it today) is based on Paul's understanding of Jesus' message, even
if Paul was the least acquainted with Jesus of all the early leaders.
But he was the only one who was a Roman citizen, and who preached
Christianity for all, not just for the Jews.
New Testament includes Paul's letters as an appendix, but they may be
the reason the New Testament is the way it is. First Paul coded
Christian religion as a Greek and Roman-friendly dogma, then some
gospels (written in Greece in Greek) were chosen as the official ones
because they reflected that dogma. Paul's letters date from about the
year 50, while the earliest gospel is from 60-70. Paul's
letters came first and it sounds like the gospels were chosen and
edited to justify what Paul wrote (as if to say "you see? that's
precisely what Jesus had said").
letters may be the real foundations of modern Christianity, whereas
original Christianity perished in the Roman persecutions of the
"disposyni/desposini" (Jesus' heirs in Palestine) following
represented a different kind of Christianity than the one preached in
Palestine. He was very young when he was admitted in the Agora of
Athens. He must have had good credentials, otherwise educated people
would not even have listened to him. Paul was a Roman citizen, and
younger than the apostles (he was not one of the twelve). There are
speculations that he may have been a member of the Herodian family. He
represented the view that Christianity was not only for Jews, but for
James the JustJames
the Just was the leader of the early Christians in Palestine. His
importance was recognized by early Christians and by Paul himself, who
treats him like a leader and seems more interested in James' leadership
than in Jesus' teachings.
James was one of Jesus' brothers
and appears to have been a revolutionary, more interested in rebelling
against the Romans than in the kingdom of heaven. His ideology was
probably very different from Paul's: where Paul admitted non-Jews into
Christianity, it is likely that James was a "purist" who did not
tolerate the contamination.
preached that everybody could be a member of the sect. James probably
preached that only Jews could be members. Paul was in favor of opening
Jerusalem to Roman citizens. James was against foreigners. James was
the product of a resistance that had lasted centuries, first fighting
against the Greeks and then the Romans.
was probably not a traitor but a pragmatic: he wanted to win and
realized that compromise was essential. James was an idealist: he
wanted to the right, no matter what. Martyrdom is not inherent in
Paul's preaching, it is in James' ideology.
is but one of many blood relatives of Jesus who left their mark on
early Christians in the Middle East. When Rome converted, they were
wiped off. Some were killed, some were forced to disband. The
"disposyni/desposini" (blood relatives of Jesus) disappeared from
life ended in the years immediately preceding the Jewish rebellion of
66-70 and his stoning may have been related to the upheaval that caused
that war, which in turn may have been related to his fundamentalist
ideology, which in turn may have been a source of conflict with Paul.
of that era spend more time talking of James than of anyone else. In
the New Testament he is hardly mentioned, as if someone carefully
removed any reference to the man who was the most influential Christian
of the era.
inscription in stone, found in 2002 near Jerusalem and written in
Aramaic, with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus", is
the oldest known reference to Jesus: it is dated 63 AD.
John the BaptistChristian
literature is reluctant to deal with John the Baptist, although he was
the one who "initiated" Jesus; and he was the first one to be killed
(beheaded by Herod's son Herod Antipas). The Jewish historian Josephus
did not know Jesus but he did know very well John the Baptist. Josephus
reports how John the Baptist created a large movement that came to
threaten Herod Antipas. In the gospels Jesus seems to be one of the
Baptist's disciples that somehow started his own movement (the gospels
mention that he made his first recruits among John's disciples). John's
movement disappears with his death, but John was still revered over the
centuries (as attested by countless legends and paintings about his
Mandaeans, a religious sect centred on the Iran/Iraq border, claim that
the Baptist was their greatest leader (although they deny he was the
founder of their religion) and that Jesus, who started his career as
one of John's disciples, was a false prophet who stole John's teachings
and corrupted them, then misled the people who followed him with
corrupt teachings. Andrew Rush )
story of Simon Magus, a Samaritan (Turkish) magician in the time of
Claudius (41-54) who became popular in Rome, is strikingly similar to
Jesus'. He too was originally a disciple of John (in fact, he may have
succeeded him at the head of his movement), he too performed miracles,
he too traveled with a former prostitute, he too started a religious
Early Christian writers like Justin, Irenaeus, Eusebius
and Epiphanius mention Simon Magus as a demon who proclaims to be god
and his followers as performing sexual rites and living "immorally".
They seem to imply that some people believed him a saint (or was Jesus
himself). At least, early Christian writers deemed it worth to mention
Simon Magus as an evil man.
Simon Magus is mentioned in the Acts and in early Christian legends as competing with Peter for divine legitimacy.
Simon Magus wrote books but they were all destroyed. All the information we have on Simon Magus comes from his enemies.
The disposyni/desposini and IslamIslam
is much closer to James' ideology than to Judaism or Christianity. It
could be that James' ideology of faith and goodness ("believe and
perform good actions") spread south to the Arabs and survived centuries
later in Mohammed's Quran. The Romans, after all, persecuted the (real)
Christians, the "disposyni/desposini", and forced them to disband and
flee. They could have moved south to escape the Romans. Muslims believe
in the prophets and in Jesus, but claim that the "books" were changed
by evil people. Isn't this what a disposyni/desposini would claim
today? Those books were indeed changed, forcing the whole Christian
world to believe that Christianity started in Rome and that Paul's
doctrine was Jesus'. The original books were banned. Christians who
knew about those books were forced in exile. What Muslims tell us is
exactly what a surviving Jamesian Christian would tell us.
the Jews' Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the Jews, led by Bar Kochba,
recaptured Jerusalem, but eventually the legions of emperor Hadrian won
the war. Hadrian changed the name of the city of Jerusalem to Aelia
Capitolina, ordered the building of a temple of Jupiter on the site of
the Jewish Temple, and expelled Jews from the city. Most Judeans (Jews)
fled to Arabia, that already has a sizable Jewish community (Medina
itself was originally a Jewish settlement)
Jewish rebellions and early ChristiansThe
legend of Jesus may also have a political aspect. The Jews of Palestine
never accepted the rule of Rome. Their prophets were telling them that
a "fifth kingdom" was coming (the previous ones being the occupations
by Assyrians, Medes, Persians and Greeks), and it would be a Jewish
kingdom, created by a messiah imbued with divine powers. For some or
most of Jesus' followers, Jesus may have been identified with that
messiah. The Jews then fought three bloody wars against the Romans,
each one with "messianic" fervor. They lost all three and the third one
ended with the Romans banning Jews from Jerusalem. Then it became
impossible to deny that the Romans, not the Jews, were the fifth
kingdom. Jesus was obviously not the messiah that prophets had
predicted would free the Jews from external domination. No wonder most
Jews made fun of Christians and even today do not recognize Jesus as
historian Josephus chronicles the events of the first century. The Jews
believed in the prophecy that one of them (the messiah) was destined by
god to rule over the entire world. Therefore they kept revolting
against the Romans. As the Romans kept winning, that belief moved
further and further in time. But the Jews who fought the Romans in 66
and then again in 132 probably did so because :-
were opposed to accepting Roman rule (i.e., Herod and the Herodians)
over Palestine (that had been ruled by the Maccabeans)
2. they were convinced that one of them (the messiah) was meant to rule over the world (not the Roman emperor).
blood relatives (the "disposyni/desposini") were probably among the
leaders of the rebellions. In 136 emperor Hadrian definitely crushed
the Jews resistance and forbade Jews from ever entering Jerusalem
again. That is the time when the "gnostic" attitude is born. Instead of
interpreting Jesus as the messiah, some Jews started interpreting his
message as a message of knowledge (of love, fraternity, piety, etc).
And the kingdom moved to the heavens.
people who did not participate in the various uprisings were the
Pharisees (who, like Paul, favored coexistence with the Romans), the
Herodians (members of the royal family) and the high priests (who had
been appointed by Herod and the Romans). These must have been viewed as
enemies by James and the early "Christians" of Palestine. These may
well be the same "Zealots" that killed the high priests and led the
crusade against Rome.
The Dead Sea scrollsThe
Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran are probably the best preserved document
of pre-Christian ideology. They are from the Roman era, but they were
never "edited" by the Roman empire. Both the writing style and the
contents reflect the real thinking of the pre-Christian era. The date
of the Dead Sea Scrolls has not been determined for sure yet. One
theory has it that the Essenes, who wrote it, predate Jesus (they are
not mentioned in the New Testament), and that therefore Jesus was just
one of them.
One theory is that they were written right after
Jesus' death and that they represent early Christian thinking (the
Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament precisely because the
New Testament is written by Essenes). In the latter case, James the
Just would then be a protagonist of the story, whereas Jesus would be
only a marginal figure, a sort of magician who happened to become
there is disagreement on when the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. They
deal at length with a good man and with an evil man who were fighting
for control of the "movement". If the Dead Sea Scrolls predate Jesus,
then Jesus was the product of a culture that had been around for a
while and we may never find out who the two protagonists were. If the
Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the early Christians, then a strong
possibility is that James is the good man and Paul is the evil man
(challenging James' doctrine). But then the Dead Sea Scroll don't talk
of Jesus at all. Why wouldn't a Christian text talk of Jesus at all?
Nag Hammadi and the gnosticsNag
Hammadi is the place in Egypt where a library of ancient scripts was
found in the 1940s. It includes a number of Christian documents, known
as the "gnostic" gospels. These gospels provide a glimpse of what
Christianity may have been at the very beginning, before being
contaminated by political power. For example, one gospel clearly states
that it is the gospel of the "twin of Jesus" Judas. That gospel is
completely different from the official gospels not only because it
doesn't chronicle miracles but because it depicts Jesus as a
Buddhist-style cryptic wise man.
gnostics (as well as the disposyni/desposini) disappeared after 381,
when Theodosius made heresy a crime and (presumably) persecutions began
against anybody who argued with the Roman dogma.
a long time gnostics have been viewed as opposed to "Pauline
Christianity", Christianity as it is today. But now we know that the
gnostics actually revered Paul and considered one of theirs. We also
know that only seven of the 13 letters attributed to Paul are authentic
and one can suspect that the other six were written to prove something
that was not proven in the original seven. (Some of the letters appear
for the first time with Irenaeus, in 190, the same man who codified the
official gospels and must have been to be fakes because not even the
Christian historian Eusebius included them in his version of the
bible). If one removes the fakes, the originals are strikingly similar
to gnostic literature and not a single attack against the gnostics
remains. So much so that early Roman letters (such as Clement's and
even Peter's) accuse Paul of being a heretic. Commentators have long
speculated that there may have been a rift between Paul and James.
authentic letters talk of allegories (Galatians, 4/24) and symbols
(Corinthians 10/6) as if to warn against a literal interpretation of
the old testament, and depict a philosophy not too different by the
Platonism preached by Philo of Alexandria (a contemporary of Jesus).
Could it this be the reason why he was so disliked by Peter and James
and why he was so popular with Romans and Greeks?
can toy with the idea that Paul was such an influential person from the
very beginning of Christianity that he could not be dismissed by the
Roman church. At the same time, Paul may have been the true founder of
Christianity, but not what today we regard as Paul's Christianity,
rather just about the opposite: the gnostics may have been closer to
Paul's ideology. When the gnostics were persecuted, Paul's ideology was
simply "tweaked" with the fake letters so that it would support the
Roman ideology. Thus Paul could be involuntarily be regarded as the
founder of today's Christianity when in fact he was preaching something
else and had no idea future generations would distort his teachings.
Irenaeus and the dogmaThe
Christian historian and bishop Irenaeus, who lived between 125 to 202,
was probably the first one to state what was legal and what was not in
Christianity. He banned books that would remain banned for thousands of
years. Those books were sometimes early accounts of the life of Jesus
and of the spread of Christianity, but conflicted somehow with the
Greek-Roman version of events. When Rome became Christian, Irenaeus'
view became dogma.
is certainly odd that Irenaeus chose gospels written by people who had
not been eye-witnesses and discarded gospels such as Thomas' and
Peter's. It is certainly odd that such a crucial role is played by the
letters of Paul, who had never met Jesus.
of the books that became illegal and was long lost was the gospel of
Didymos Judas Thomas, one of the apostles and the one who was sent
east. Didymos in Greek and Thomas in Aramaic both mean "the twin". It
sounds too much of a coincidence. This is consistent with a belief
among early Christians that Jesus had a twin brother. Even in one of
the official gospels (Matthew's), Pilate asks the people who they would
like to crucify: Jesus Messiah or Jesus Barabbas. While this is
interpreted as a choice between Jesus and a bandit, it could be that
Pilate was trying to ascertain which of the two twins was the one
accused of sedition, the other one being a mere thief.
version of that gospel was found in Nag Hammadi. It is likely that the
apostle Taddeus and Judas "the twin" are the same person. Taddeus
reached Armenia and then possibly traveled further east. The gospel of
Judas Thomas has always intrigued historians and theologians because it
doesn't sound Christian at all: its style is closer to Buddhist
meditation scripts than to Christian chronicles of Jesus life. After
Rome converted, eastern Christianity was forgotten. The truth is that
it probably stayed closer to Jesus' thought precisely because it was
not contaminated by Roman power.
Taddeus and the Jesus of the eastThomas/Taddeus
may have reached India. There is a place in Srinagar (Kashmir) that is
considered Jesus' tomb. If Thomas was a twin brother of Jesus, or
simply a spokesman for Jesus, and did reach India this could explain
the misunderstanding. Jesus (Yuz Asaf, Yus Asaph, Yesu, San Issa) is
mentioned in several documents of Kashmir and even Tibet and all refer
to him after his death.
know the burial places of most early Christians, except one: Jesus
himself. If you believe that the body of Jesus disappeared when he
ascended to heaven, as the Church does, you don't have to explain where
his bodily remains are.
Everybody else should at least wonder
why we haven't found the tomb of the very man who is at the centre of
the Christian faith (the four official gospels list four different
burial places). Jesus' date of birth and death are also disputed. Herod
died in 4 BC, so (if the gospels tell the truth) Jesus can't be born
after that date. The Acts of Thomas record that Jesus was in Taxila at
a marriage ceremony in the year 49. Irenaeus himself (not a heretic)
writes that Jesus reached an old age.
Was Jesus still alive when James the Just, Paul, Peter and Taddeus were spreading Christianity around the world?
historian Jesophus mentions a "Jesus" who was alive during the years of
the Jewish war (66-70 AD), who was an oracle and who was tried in front
of Pilate (except that Pilate released him, not crucified him).
the body of Jesus was buried somewhere, at least two people must have
known and visited that place: his mother and his closest friend.
(the mother of Jesus, James the Just and Taddeus) is known to have
traveled to Turkey and may have died near Ephesus (according to local
legend). James was almost certainly with her. They were, de facto,
Magdalene was closer to Jesus than anyone else. "Miriam" was the
"apostle of the apostles", and the first witness of the resurrection.
The gospels give different accounts of her whereabouts and movements
before and after the death of Jesus. There is a legend that she
traveled to France, to La Sainte-Baume (near Marseilles), and lived in
solitude in a cave for the rest of her life. There is a legend that she
followed the Virgin Mary to Turkey and died there.
became king in 37 BC because his father Antipater had helped the Roman
general Pompej conquer Jerusalem in 63 BC. Herod was a ruthless ruler
whose first and main goal was to destroy the Maccabeans who had ruled
before him. He killed all of them, except the princess Mary whom he
married. Mary committed adultery with Herod's brother Joseph while
Herod was in Rome (29 BC). When Herod returned and was informed of the
adultery, he executed Mary. He then executed her sons because they were
more popular than him with the Jews: they had Maccabean blood. This
story is somehow reflected in the legend that Jesus was the son of Mary
and Joseph and that Herod wanted to kill all the Jewish children to
make sure none of them would claim the title of king. It is unlikely
that Jesus was the illegitimate son of the historical Mary and Joseph,
because it would make him too old, but the coincidence is striking.
Who was Jesus?And
what was Jesus' name? "Jesus" simply means "Savior" in Hebrew, just
like "Christ" is the Greek for "anointed" (a term used in the Old
Testament for many kings). But what was his real name?
family name Barsabas is attributed in the Acts to both a Joseph and a
Judas. There is evidence pointing to the fact that Judas Barsabas could
be Thaddeus, who is also Judas the "twin brother" of Jesus (Thaddeus is
a contraction of "Judas Thomas", that in turn means Judas the brother).
Names similar to Barsabas (and Barabbas) recur in Jesus' relatives. The
very bandit Barabbas could just be a split in the story, that separated
the prophet from the bandit (they were one for the Romans).
Irenaeus himself writes that "Iesous... is a symbolic name".
Romans kept accurate records of every political and judicial event.
There is no record of Pontius Pilate trying and executing a man named
Jesus. Only two Roman writers of Jesus' time mention Christians (Pliny
and Svetonius) but they don't mention Jesus. The first Roman to mention
Jesus is Tacitus, but almost a century after the death of Jesus.
The Jewish historian Josephus certainly mentions Christians, but his words about Jesus are generally considered a later forgery (the Christian historian Origen of the third century wrote that Josephus never mentioned Jesus).
Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived in Egypt at the time of Jesus does
not seem to know anything about Jesus or Christians (he died in the
himself, one of the founders of Christianity, never talks about Jesus'
life, while he definitely talks about his brother James.
analyzing the historical records, one possible explanation of the
events emerges. Jesus, whether because related by blood (via his
mother) to the Maccabeans that Jews still revered, or because related
to Herod whom Jews feared, claimed to to be the king of the Jews.
Jews liked him because they recognized his credentials (especially if
he was indeed a Maccabean), some Jews despised him as a madman.
Eventually, his claims came to the hears of the Romans, as well as his
teachings (he was probably a sort of "communist" philosopher, preaching
that all humans are equal), and that is what the Romans killed him for.
He was probably killed with no trial, just like many other "rebels" of
the time that Rome did not deem worthy of any bureaucracy. That is the
reason why nobody knows where his tomb is: the Romans did not bother to
bury him or return his body.
heir to the Jewish establishment that wanted to coexist with the Romans
and adopt Greek philosophy, was the first Roman citizen to become
Christian and spread the Christian word around the world. He was also
the first to claim that Greeks and Romans could be as Christian as
Jews. In Rome, it was a natural decision to adopt his version of
Christianity. When Christianity became the official religion of the
Roman Empire, Christianity was "relocated" from Palestine to Rome:
instead of recognizing the thread that starts with Jesus and continues
with James and the following disposyni/desposini, Rome decided to start
counting with Peter (the first Christian martyr in Rome) and his
descendants, the popes.