Sunday, February 26, 2017

Great Jesus-just a righteous Jew!

 Most of what we know about Jesus comes from the gospels that carry no authenticity as the authors were not historians. Some of the scholars investigating the historical Jesus, at the turn of the 19th century, thought that Jesus did not live at all. It is now usually rejected, such a person probably lived.

It may not be possible to draw the historical Jesus. The Christian authors, distorted and blurred everything. Robert Henry Lightfoot (1883 –1953), Anglican theologian: “For all the inestimable value of the gospels, they yield us little more than the whisper of his ways.” According to Rudolf Bultmann,(1884-1976) a German Lutheran theologian, we can, strictly speaking, know nothing of Jesus from the gospels. The capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 and the contact with the mystery cults, deposited layer after layer in what was orally transferred. Many stories and miracles were added to his life.The writers tried also to set events to suite prophecies regarding a mighty king.  
The Jewish and pagan historians of the 1st century are almost silent regarding Jesus. Flavius Josephus who died abut 100 AD published "The Jewish war" in 77/78  and "The antiquities of the Jews" in 94/95. In the earlier Greek versions there is no mention of Jesus as such. But in some other editions there are references to Jesus (which must have had been added later.) All leading scholars agree that the phrase “if it is lawful to call him a man’ found twice in later editions is simply a later addition. Cornelius Tacitus in about 116 AD mentioned in his manual: “ Nero was fiercely persecuting Christians on account of their crimes. Almost scornfully he adds: the founder of this sect named Christ was executed by the procurator, Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Although the pernicious superstition was momentarily subdued, it again broke out not only in Judea but also in the city of Rome.” Tranquilus Suetonius who lived in the 2nd century alludes to Christians who adhere to a new and pernicious superstition in two passages in “The Live of the Caesars.” Around 112 CE, Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trojan, detailing how he was conducting the trials of those accused of being Christians.  A few years later, another historian, Suetonius, wrote that Emperor Claudius had expelled Jews from Rome because of the disturbances instigated by Chrestus. 

Jesus not god! If Jesus were the guy described in the Bible--calming the seas, walking over water, curing lepers, making the blind see, the deaf hear, raising the dead, he would have been quite famous and the historians of the period would have written extensively on him. But they hardly mention about the guy. Why was the Almighty known only to handful of ignorant fishermen? No early Christian knew when Christ was born. The Encyclopedia Britannica says: "Christians count 133 contrary opinions of different authorities concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth."

Matthew says he was born in Bethlehem (to fulfill a prophecy in the Book of Micah).But Micah had prophesied the coming of a military leader, not a divine teacher. Luke too says his birth occurred at Bethlehem, where his mother had gone with her husband, to make the enrollment called for by Augustus Caesar. Of the general census mentioned by Luke, nothing is known in Roman history. In any census,the Roman custom wanted every man (head of the family)to report at his place of residence. Wife or any dependent was not required to do so. Still Luke says that Joseph left his home in Nazareth and crossed two provinces and went to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife, Mary on the very eve of her becoming a mother. Can this be true? The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, City of David. Hence, as Ernest Renan, famous Bible critic, says, his birth was made to take place there.

The stories of the shepherds and wise men that recognized the child as the son of god are preserved in Mathew and Luke. Remember David himself was a shepherd in the fields of Bethlehem. The said narration could have been inserted to show the coming of the Messianic Shepherd from David’s line. Mathew describes the attempt of Herod to destroy the child and hence Joseph and Mary took flight to Egypt and returned back to Nazareth where they settled down. If Jesus was recognized as the promised King by the shepherds and if Herod accepted this fact and took measures to kill the babe, why did he emerge as a stranger from Nazareth to begin his ministry? Why were the gospel writers ignorant on the thirty years of his life? Why didn’t any one recognize him during his public life? In the 4th gospel (A much later production) Jesus is accepted by John the Baptist and the first disciples. The other three gospel writers make him Christ only by making Peter confess at Caesarea Philippi.

The story of the Immaculate Conception and connected legends and the miracles were invented to picture him as a god like the mythical gods. Many scholars find the genealogy given in the gospels totally wrong- obviously added to show that Jesus is the heir of the promise made to Abraham. But if he was born of a virgin and what is the use of giving the genealogy extending to Joseph?  

Mary and Joseph were poor people. The family grew up to be a large one (4 brothers and some sisters are mentioned in Mark 6:3) Joseph was a carpenter and Jesus evidently got apprenticed to this trade. He grew up a Jewish boy. He studied their scriptures first at home and then in the school of the synagogue. This enabled him to quote extensively form the religious books in his public life. Gospels try to show that Nazareth was his home town. Was there a city of Nazareth in the first century? The Encyclopedia Biblical says, “We cannot perhaps venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus' time." If there was no Nazareth in the 1st century, gospels are fictitious.   

After his birth, nothing is known of the life of the Almighty until he reached the age of 30. Luke mentions Jesus discussing with the doctors in the Temple of Jerusalem like Buddha did, when he was 12. There were stories of other gods who had such discussions with the learned at a very young age.  Even his birth was witnessed by the appearance of a divine star and learned men came to visit him. A ruler had tried to kill the child. But then there is darkness for 30 years and the gospels are about his ministry which lasted just 1 year according to the synoptic gospels and more than 2 as per John.

His Public Life: Jesus came forth Nazareth, received baptism from John in the river Jordan. He withdrew into the wilderness where he was tempted of Satan and was with wild beasts. Angels brought him food-much as the OT had related of Elijah the prophet. Luke and Mathew even say he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights as Moses did on  Mount Sinai(Mathew 4:1-12, Mark 1:12 , Luke 4:1-14). As the gospels were written during different periods of time, we find different narrations in different gospels.  The events associated with the lives of the Jewish prophets got incorporated into the life of Jesus. Upon the imprisonment of John he set out to preach.  Much of his teachings were based on the rabbinical writings. He introduced a new form of homely metaphor and parable to his teachings. He always tried to explain and clarify Biblical teachings. Scholars feel his words: ‘you are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savor wherewith shall one salt? You are the light of the world, your light shall shine..’ are addressed to  Jews.

But the gospels of Mathew and Luke contain a great condemnation of the Pharisees and the scribes. The destruction of the temple of Jerusalem (AD70) gave a valid argument for the rejection of the Jews. The temple was the dwelling place of Yahweh. If it was destroyed, God had passed judgment against the Jews. This rejection must have had come from Jesus (gospels were written later and the words were put  into his mouth.) How can Yahweh turn against his own people?  Dr. Paul W. Schmiedel, Professor of NT Exegesis at Zurich, Switzerland, a foremost European theologian, tells us in the Encyclopedia Biblica, that there are only nine passages in the Gospels that we can depend upon as being the sayings of Jesus. But scholars like Professor Arthur Drews feels Christ is a myth and even these 9 passages are as unhistorical.

The story of Jesus was certainly fashioned after the mythical gods like Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Mithras,others like Buddha and Krishna. The narratives of some of these gods existed hundreds of years before Jesus’ story emerged and some others were almost contemporaries of Jesus. The preachers who wrote about Jesus were familiar with them and they drew from them extensively or rather they created a Jesus in their model. The stories of the virgin birth, the shepherds and wise men, the miracle of turning water into wine in the marriage party, walking on waters, making the blind see, deaf hear, curing the paraplegics, raising Lazarus, having 12 disciples, last supper, the Eucharistic ceremony, raising the dead, getting crucified and resurrecting on the 3rd day have all been adopted from the earlier gods and projected into the life of Jesus. Matthew puts a special effort to see that the messianic prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. He studied the Jewish scriptures and models his account of Jesus to suite the so-called prophesies. He was a mere preacher who wanted to establish Jesus was Messiah, although the Jews, Yahweh's chosen tribe, rejected him and wait for the coming of the Messiah. 

Jesus was a preacher-healer-critique of Judaism. Being well versed in the scriptures he debated with the scholars. He was annoyed at the strict observance of the Jewish laws. The Pharisees and scribes were publicly criticized by him. He called the former ‘white washed tombs,’ the latter ‘sons of serpents.’ The offended Jewish elite plotted and forced Pilate to crucify him as a public nuisance.
The picture of a good man carrying a heavy cross to a hill to be crucified perhaps made Paul think that he died for the sins of others.  Paul felt the innocent guy suffered not for himself but for others. This was the foundation for the doctrine of redemption, the basis of Christianity.  Jesus’ eloquence and noble character attracted a few to him, and he was hailed as a prophet after his death. 

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