Ten Questions About Jesus
Should you care about Jesus?
OK, we’re not starting with that question. But you should care. Jesus is more than the most important human ever – and that has nothing to do with religion.
For the purpose here, we start with four restrictions:
1. Beliefs regarding Jesus’ “divinity” are irrelevant.
2. Church theology, including the “doctrine of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice” doesn’t make Jesus significant.
3. The broad and lasting existence and influence of the Christian churches don’t add to Jesus’ personal significance.
4. Assumptions about “miraculous causation” for events attributed to Jesus are bogus and irrelevant in assessing Jesus’ significance.
We also start with four premises:
1. The fact that there is more written material relating to Jesus increases his significance (even though most of it is fiction, erroneous, or grossly misleading)
2. It does matter that religions based upon beliefs about Jesus comprise the largest “religion” of the world. We should not blame Jesus for this.
3. Virtually everybody I have ever talked with about Jesus has unduly relied upon others to tell them about the most important human ever.
4. I propose that you start caring about Jesus because of who he was, what he taught, and what he did.
It is highly unlikely that you have even a vague basis for knowing who Jesus was, misguided information about what he taught, and highly fictionalized notions about what he did. I say that with confidence because what most everyone thinks they know about Jesus has been fabricated to support someone else’s interests, makes no sense, and has no basis in fact. These ten questions are intended to guide a reevaluation of Jesus.
I. Did Jesus meet the most basic qualifications to be the “Messiah” (aka “Christ”)?
“Jesus Christ”! What were you thinking? For about a thousand years before Jesus, Jews had prophesized about a “Mashiach” (the second redeemer, aka Mashiach ben David) who would be sent by God to usher in the “Messianic days”. There were, at the time of Jesus, several widely believed prophecies regarding the Messianic days and ultimately the test for whether a person was the Mashiach is that if he dies before completing the mission of the Mashiach, then that person could not be the Mashiach. Because it is undisputable that the Messianic Mission has not been completed, it is absurd to claim that Jesus was the Mashiach.
II. If Jesus was not “the Christ” what makes him important?
Although church doctrine within “Christianity” is based upon belief that Jesus was divinity, one could imagine a doctrine of Jesus entirely devoid of “faith”, belief, or promises that have no basis. Indeed, in their early history the doctrines of the followers of Jesus were not based upon any claim of his being a god or having any special divine aspect. In other words, Jesus was important before any “church” was established where his divinity was claimed. And, obviously, the fact that so many churches were established based upon the belief in Jesus’ divinity (properly or not) cannot be taken from him. Even if we don’t credit Jesus with inspiring the founders of Christianity, his influence would have been great…
III. Who was Jesus?
Try to forget everything you think you know about Jesus – most of it is myth. There are five things we can know and should consider closely about Jesus:
- He was born into a wealthy and highly influential family, but was a “Mamzer”.
- His family, especially his brothers and cousins, formed the core of his following.
- He was a “Rabboni” (aka διδάσκαλος or didaskalos) – a recognized Jewish teacher who espoused both fundamentalist (orthodox) religious views and progressive (unorthodox) socialistic teachings extrapolated from his religious beliefs.
- He chose the high-risk path that led to his crucifixion.
- He was not “resurrected”, but many of his followers believed he had been.
If we start our consideration of Jesus with these five notions, our understanding of his life, choices, and outcomes makes much more sense. Jesus was not just a descendant of David, for him to be considered as Mashiach, he had to be qualified to rule under David’s lineage. For anyone to have suggested that he was the Messiah without such qualification would have been treated with derision or anger. However, the widespread belief that he had questionable parentage would have been difficult to resolve and probably greatly changed Jesus’ options in life (including marriage). But this leads to some critical questions…
IV. What did the people who best knew Jesus think of him?
You don’t have to be a scholar or genius to read between the lines of the NT Gospels and see both the contradiction and obvious effort to disparage and minimize the family of Jesus. It does help to carefully analyze the details:
- Jesus had at least four brothers (named) and two sisters (unnamed) - and probably had other half-brothers and half-sisters (unnamed in the Gospels). The names of his brothers are given as:
- James (or Jacob)
- Joses (or Joseph)
- Judas (aka Jude, Thaddeus or Thomas)
- Simon (or Simeon/Symeon).
- Jesus had a group of “special followers” (who are referred to as “Apostles”) whose names are given (differently in the Synoptic Gospels) as:
- Simon-Peter bar Jonah (aka Cephas) of Bethsaida
- Andrew bar Jonah of Bethsaida
- James bar Zebedee of Bethsaida
- John bar Zebedee of Bethsaida
- Philip (probably related to Nathanael) of Bethsaida
- Bartholomew (probably aka Nathaniel)
- Nathaniel (probably bar Talmai) of Bethsaida
- Judas (Thomas) bar Simon aka “Iscariot”
- Matthew (or Levi) bar Alphaeus of Capernaum
- James bar Alphaeus (aka Jacob) “the lesser” of Capernaum
- Thaddeus bar Alphaeus (or Thomas or Jude or Lebbaeus) of Capernaum
- Simon (the Canaanite or the Zealot/Zelotes)
- Thomas (or Jude) Didymus – the “twin”
- Matthias (who replaced Judas Iscariot)
- Barsabas bar Justus
- Jesus was succeeded in his ministry by two of his brothers:
- “James the Just” (According to Acts 12:17-18)
- “Simeon of Jerusalem” (According to Eusebius of Caesarea in “Church History”, Book III, Ch. 11 citing Hegesippus).
Because it is obvious that the successor of Jesus was chosen from the Apostles and was clearly identified as a brother of Jesus, at least one of the Apostles was also the brother of Jesus. Since all four names of his brothers appear in the lists of Apostles and Jesus was succeeded by two of them (and parts of the New testament were written by another (See the Epistle of Jude), we are left to wonder how and why these brothers are largely ignored in the Synoptic Gospels. The obvious answer is that the early Christian churches didn’t want them given due consideration.
The “Ebionites” were the key family members of Jesus who continued his ministry after his death. If we want to know Jesus, we must begin with their key views of him:
- He was born naturally to his mother Mary under unusual circumstances.
- He was not divine, but fully human.
- He belonged to a group called “the Nazoreans”, which advocated a more fundamental Judaism without the Temple priesthood.
- He (and his family) were associated with a group of Zealots – Jewish nationalists who sought a religious state of Israel led by a proper Sanhedrin and/or righteous king/priest.
- He was a man worth dying for.
- His ideas were worth dying for.
These views are consistent with almost all of the first followers of Jesus… those who actually KNEW him.
V. What were the ideas and teachings of Jesus that others were willing to die for?
Jesus was a religious figure of his time, but his religious ideas were radical in relation to the Temple establishment of Jerusalem and possibly dangerous to the Roman and Herodian rulers of Judea. Additionally, his family connections made him awkward, difficult, or nearly impossible to deal with as a “rebel” (aka Zealot). Jesus’ unique position, stature, and teachings allowed him to teach what few or no others could.
The governing idea behind Jesus’ teachings was that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. He promised his followers that they would experience God’s Kingdom in that generation and he lived his life accordingly. This is the likely reason he wrote nothing of his teachings and that his followers didn’t write his teachings during his lifetime. The only way to make sense of his choices and actions is to place them into the context of an expectation that was never realized.
Because his “Kingdom is at hand” teachings aligned with some common Messianic expectations, it is easy to see why many of his followers associated his teachings as Messianic. Some came to think that Jesus might be the Messiah. Of course, Jesus and his family knew better.
Jesus was not expecting the Mashiach; he was expecting Divine intervention consistent with the Torah (Old Testament) – a direct Divine judgment (and punishment) against the unrighteous. His first and most repeated instruction was “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” From this we may deduce that three words that Jesus favored were:
- “Shub” (the Aramaic שׁוּב for the Greek “Μετανοεῖτε”, “metanoeo/metanoeite”). In Hebrew, shub, as used by Jesus, refers to a dramatic and complete turning back - implying a conscious choice against sin and a decision to follow God’s Will.
- “Ahava” (the Aramaic אהבה for the Greek “γάπη”, “agape”). In Jesus’ culture, the essence of love was in giving (thus, some translations use “charity” instead of “love” when agape appears in Greek). When used by Jesus, ahava referred to a sacrificial (non-trivial) giving of charity, respect, and kindness.
- “Tsedaqah/Tsedeq” (the Aramaic צְדָקָה/צֶ֫דֶק for the Greek “δικαιοσύηv/dikaiosuné). For Hebrews, the concept of righteousness transcends what is right or just for humans – it is a key attribute of God as one who is fair, keeps a covenant, and acts ethically. It is also a key attribute of the Mashiach (יהוה צִדְקֵנוּ) and the basis for salvation.
(I hope these examples show why reading an English translation of a Greek text translating an oral tradition from Aramaic may not provide a full or accurate meaning).
Jesus was an expert orator who favored metaphor, simile, pun, and play-on-works. We have lost the meaning of some of his teachings because of this. Jesus also commonly voiced positions that could be viewed as blasphemous (punishable by death) or insurrectional (punishable by death), so he was cautious about his audience and his openness. Some of his teachings were “secret” and intended only for a few who had the knowledge and insight to “read between and beyond the lines”. So, even though many of his teachings have been lost to us (and others fabricated or corrupted for us), what matters most are those teachings that led to Jesus’ death and so many of his early followers to theirs:
- Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matt. 4:17).
- This is my commandment: Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37-8).
- This is my commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt22:39).
- This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you for greater love has no one than that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12).
- Love your enemies; do not hate, be reconciled (Matt. 5:38-48; 5:21-24).
- You must become like a child to enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 19:13-15).
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matt. 5:1-12).
- Only those who have love for God and for God’s Will can understand the meaning of their lives.
- Only those who do the will of God may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 7:21
- Those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).
- With God all things are possible (Matt. 19-26).
- The Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known. And you will know that it is you who are the children of the living father (GoT 3).
- The Kingdom of God is both within us and around us… it is something that emerges when you attain gnosis – the specific type of self-awareness which leads to insight. (Awareness of the Divine self) (GoT 3+).
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matt 5:7).
- Know what is in front of your face and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. Seek and you will find (GoT 2,5, 92; Matt. 7:7)).
- The end will be where the beginning is; the one who stands at the beginning will know the end and will not taste death (GoT 18).
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matt. 5:6).
- If you do not fast from the world, you will not find God’s Kingdom. If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath you will not see God.
- Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of God." (Matt. 7:21)
- If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole (GoT 34).
- I disclose my mysteries to those worthy of my mysteries (GoT 62).
- Blessed are those who have heard the word of God and have truly kept it (GoT 79).
- Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate (Got 6).
- Whoever does the Will of God is my brother and sister." (Matt. 12:50).
About himself, Jesus offered this affirmation:
- "Why do you call me good? No-one is good - except God alone." (Luke 18:19).
About his teachings and followers, Jesus wondered:
- "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46).
VI. While his teachings tell us much about Jesus’ beliefs, what do his actions tell us about his values?
Jesus exemplified a life of consistency between one’s values and beliefs. What set Jesus apart was not so much the complexity, creativity, or influence of his teachings, but that he never had to say: “Do as I say, not as I do.” I know of no other human who set his “bar so high” and strove more earnestly live righteously. I believe this is the primary reason Jesus drew such a committed following… his words were beautiful and inspiring but not as much as his actions.
In short, Jesus loved God, believed that God loved us, and gave his life to show his love for both us and God. How divine! If love is sacrificial giving, Jesus’ actions demonstrate “Shub” above all others. Thus, when Jesus told the wealthy man how to attain eternal life, his answer was more than words…
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21).
Jesus taught that we are unworthy servants of God if we have only done our duty (Luke 17:9-10) and that is how he lived – seeking to do more than honor “commandments” or demonstrate token righteousness through rituals. His values were captured in his words: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (Matt 5:16).
Jesus talked the talk and walked the walk – and for this he was honored by those who knew him best.
VII. Why did Jesus Choose to Die?
Many have wondered why “the Son of God” did not save himself miraculously from the terrible death of crucifixion. The easy answer is that he couldn’t – because he had no magical or miraculous powers.
We might also ask why a loving God would allow His son to die so miserably. The clear answer is that God didn’t – Jesus was allowed “free will” (just as each of us can make our own choices). Right or wrong, better or worse, Jesus chose his own path for his own reasons.
Nothing about Jesus’ life confused his followers more than Jesus’ chosen path – and the immediate outcome. If there is any truth which emerges from the Synoptic Gospels it is that Jesus’ disciples did not understand him or his choices. This point is made by the Christian churches because they want others to believe that they understand Jesus better than his family and followers. Unfortunately, in order to make that point, they worked diligently to deprive us of any evidence regarding Jesus which might contradict their understanding of him. But we have sought and found a larger truth.
In the Gospel of Thomas, one saying of Jesus reaches out to us in this regard: Let there be among you a person who understands (Got 21). We don’t know the context of this saying, but I align it with Jesus’ agony at Gethsemane and Golgotha:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will… My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matt. 26:36-46)… “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? – (Mark 15:34).
Jesus understood that he had not been understood. Jesus understood that he had created an expectation that only God could fulfill and that his choices and actions had not been enough to compel God’s intervention. Jesus understood that his choices would lead to his death, but he did not understand why his death was necessary (not in the Christian sense). Jesus felt forsaken.
Contrary to ordinary human ideas and creative religious doctrine, Jesus did not die as a martyr to a righteous cause, as a symbolic gesture against man’s inhumanity to man, or as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus was not an innocent man wrongly accused and condemned – he was guilty as charged and punished according to law and practice (not that the law was fair or the punishments just). Either Jesus was stupid and insane – or he knew the likely outcome of his choices. Indeed, if there was any miracle involved it was that he wasn’t killed earlier (such as immediately after turning over the vendor tables in the Temple courtyard).
The telling story in this part of the tale is the scene of the “last supper” (Luke 22:7-38)…
Jesus has prepared carefully for this transformational event and there is a kind of “cloak and dagger” aspect of the accounts, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near.’” He tells Peter and John that "a man carrying a jar of water" will show them "a large upper room, all furnished" and Peter and John find things just as Jesus had told them. Events are obviously being orchestrated by Jesus, including his “betrayal”.
Jesus starts the last supper by using a Hebrew idiom, "I have desired with desire," (cf. Gen. 31:30; Num. 11:4) to signal the importance of the event (which the Apostles appear to miss). "I will not eat the Passover meal again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God." Jesus knows he is soon to die and he reflects earlier Passover events that resonate with salvation imagery. Jesus lifts the third cup of the Passover celebration and teaches one last time.
The Passover bread pictures his death and represents his self-sacrifice (the body is broken). Saying “Keep in mind my sacrifice", Jesus implements the Hebrew concept of זִכָּרוֹן “zikkaran” or remembrance. The great pathos of the situation is that Jesus has already made arrangements with his “betrayer”… “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” The Gospels tell of an unexpected (unbelievable) response – the Apostles fret about whether they individually are the betrayer (as if they wouldn’t know). There is no discussion of preventing the betrayal even as Jesus reveals the betrayer: “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.” Judas replies, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” but Jesus affirms it: “Yes, it is you.”
How can it be that Judas does not know he will be the betrayer unless he has not yet been designated to perform this role? His reply is that of one who says “Don’t pick me!” and Jesus’ answer is like “Sorry, but I have selected you for this role.” Without further explanation the Gospels tell us that the discussion among these chosen followers (and family members) is not about who will betray Jesus and what to do about it, but instead turns into an argument about who was the greatest among them. Jesus adds: “All of you shall be offended because of me this night…” If this is correct, we are left to wonder what his “offense” might be. And then Jesus offers a strange statement: “…the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” (Luke 22:26-8). We are not told whether Judas is still among the disciples at this time.
In a larger context, one might see this as Jesus discussing his successor. In the Gospel of Thomas, he is explicit: No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just (aka “James the younger”), for whose sake heaven and earth came into being. (GoT 12). Has the meaning of the statement in the NT Gospels been obfuscated?
So, what does all this tell us about why Jesus chose to die? I propose that Jesus was trying to follow Old Testament models of humans being guided by “dreams”, of humans guiding God’s actions and of humans receiving favor by taking the initiative. When Jesus was speaking to others about God’s love for the righteous, was he not also speaking to God? When Jesus made promises about the Kingdom of God, did he not believe that he was speaking for God?
Jesus chose to die because he believed that was what God demanded of him in order to trigger God’s intervention on behalf of the righteous.
VIII. What really happened to Jesus in the end?
We can be fairly certain that Jesus was crucified. We can be equally certain that a large number of his followers and family believed that he had been resurrected. A rational answer to the “why?” of both these matters requires that we forego miracles and accept historical reality.
From a doctrinal perspective it is difficult to reconcile Jesus’ loving “Father” with an idea that this father would torture his son (as crucifixion was intended to be the worst way to die) in order to provide salvation for the unrighteous. Clearly, Jesus did not expect to be crucified although he most certainly would have known it was the likely punishment for his actions. The trial and verdict could not have been much of a surprise for Jesus, so his question for God while on the cross was pointed. But it was what followed that created the legacy for Jesus and the roots for Christianity – he survived crucifixion. But then what happened?
Reading beyond the obvious fabrications and doctrinal presumptions of the NT Gospels, we may glean the salient facts:
- Jesus managed to survive crucifixion (probably through the planned intervention of others).
- Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus' body from Pilate (about the only thing all four Gospels agree upon regarding the resurrection).
- The physical damage done during crucifixion was severe, but unlikely to be fatal.
- Jesus was seen after the crucifixion by a select group of followers, but each account has some mysterious elements.
- Jesus left Jerusalem (as he had instructed his followers to do).
- His “Apostles” followed the “Great Commission” and spread east and west to share the gospel.
- James was appointed as “Bishop” of the Jerusalem synagogue of Jesus.
According to the timelines offered in the varying accounts, Jesus was removed from the cross no earlier than 3PM. Sunset in Jerusalem in April is at close to 7PM.
The sequence of events is then rather muddled…
- Jewish leaders did not want bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath so they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified to be broken (resulting in quick death) and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31).
- But when the Roman guards saw Jesus they thought he was already dead so they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and immediately blood and water flowed out.
Thus, from the time Jesus died on the cross until he had to be fully “buried”, the following had to occur:
1. Joseph of Arimathea had to be informed of the death - he was not at Golgotha – and was likely at the Temple. Someone had to walk from outside the city into the crowded Temple area and inform him. (According to John 19:38 this was “later”).
2. Joseph had to go to Pilate’s Palace to request Jesus’ body.
3. Since such a request was rarely (never before?) granted, there was no reason to prepare in advance for a burial.
4. Pilate “marvelled” that Jesus could be dead and had to confirm the death by calling in the Centurion in charge of the crucifixion. (Mark 15:44). This Centurion (given the name Abenadar in the Apocrypha) had to be at Golgotha, so someone had to go there and bring him back to Pilate’s Palace. Pilate asked him “Did he die before now?” (“ε πάλαι πέθανεν”). Once the “death” was confirmed, Pilate released (δωρσατο/granted) the body to Joseph (seemingly without charging a bribe for this unusual favor).
5. And when Joseph had taken the body,.. down from the cross, with the assistance of others, the next step was to obtain permission from the family (Mary, according to legend) to bury Jesus. Here it is very odd that the senior family member (James, the oldest brother) did not assume this duty.
6. Then, they (a group including at least Joseph and Nicodemus) had to lower the cross and body and remove the spikes holding Jesus to the wood.
7. Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body (again, the word used in Matthew is specifically not “corpse”) in a clean linen cloth (σινδόνι/sindoni). This is odd because Jewish custom required that the corpse be washed first (see Acts 9:37)… and that the corpse was normally wrapped in strips of cloth (like a “mummy”) so that spices could be interwoven between the layers (for odor control). If they skipped the washing, either they were in a great rush or they knew Jesus was not dead.
8. Some small group carried Jesus to a sepulchre (rock hewn tomb) which belonged to Joseph. Its exact location is unknown, but most scholars believe that it was outside the city wall near Golgotha. This sepulchre was noted as being unused but had a cylindrical rock which rolled over the opening to make a door. It was also noted that Mary Magdalene and the mother Mary saw where Jesus was taken, but did not perform any of the normal “burial duties” due to the late hour. Luke (23:55,56) tells us that the women had returned to the city to prepared spices and ointments and rested the Sabbath day with intent to return after the Sabbath to prepare the body of Jesus.
9. Conversely, according to the book of John (3:1-36), Nicodemus was sent into town to purchase and bring back about 100 pounds of Myrrh and Aloe purportedly for “embalming” or burial.
10. The book of Matthew (27: 62-66; 28: 4, 11-15; cf. Gospel of Peter) tells that that on Saturday (the Sabbath or as Matthew refers to as the day after the day of Preparation) the chief priests (and Pharisees?) ask Pilate for a guard to secure the tomb. Supposedly, this was to prevent the disciples from stealing the body of Jesus to fulfil Jesus' prediction of rising on the third day. Pilate responds: “You have a guard; make it as secure as you can.” (Which seems to clearly mean that the Priests would assign Temple guards this task).
Of course, all this is building up to the well-known outcome…
The first book of Mark (16:1-8) tells us that early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, mother Mary, and sister Salome go to the tomb of Jesus to anoint the body (which, of course, they never do) where they meet a “young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side of the tomb”…
He tells them, if you are looking for Jesus, he is not here... See the place where they laid him. [I have been instructed to tell you: “Go, tell his disciples, he is going ahead of you into Galilee where you will see him, just as he told you.” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
What a weird ending for the Gospel. It is little to wonder why the Christian church felt the need to extend this ending years later… and in doing so we see the nature of their mythical doctrines…
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
First, the church wanted the “young man” in the tomb to be recognized as Jesus even though those who knew him best didn’t perceive it. As usual, they wanted to disparage Jesus’ lover (perhaps wife), his mother (who would have known her son), and Jesus’ elder sister (or possibly his Aunt). Of course, the testimony of a woman was given little credence within that culture and Mary Magdalene’s claim would have seemed as absurd to them as it should to us. Thus, they don’t believe her (what happened to the mother and Salome?). Next Jesus appears to two disciples who also don’t recognize him. Weird? Finally, he appears to the eleven remaining Apostles (Judas was dead by then) as they are eating… in a locked room. We don’t know where this happened, but the other gospel accounts say it was in Jerusalem (apparently none of the Apostles followed Jesus’ instruction to go to Galilee).
The book of John (20:24–29) adds an odd story about Jesus’ younger “twin” brother – Thomas. When he hears that Jesus is still alive he doubts the story (as did the others) and claims that he won’t believe it until he sees and touches him. After eight days, Thomas is gathered with the disciples and Jesus appears in their midst (although the doors to the room were shut). Thomas proceeded to stick his fingers into Jesus’ wounds just to confirm that it’s really Jesus. Ouch!
The other gospel accounts add contradictions and interesting tidbits: Luke (24:12) tells us that Peter ran to the tomb, looked in and saw only linen wrappings (and the face-cloth, which had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. He then “went away to his home” instead of returning to the gathering and adding his testimony to that of the women. (John 20:5-8).
I propose that there is only one likely rational reading of these tales: Jesus survived crucifixion in a carefully planned response to his arrest. Whether Jesus was part of that planning or not is far less certain. How long Jesus survived afterwards is also uncertain, but it wasn’t likely very long. It was clearly long enough for a few followers to see him and for word to spread quickly that he had been resuscitated. For those who knew and loved him, it was an easy jump from resuscitated to “resurrected”.
If Jesus had been a threat to the Romans and their puppet priesthood prior to this, he was much more so after surviving their notorious death penalty. Thus, it was necessary for him to leave for safety and the “Great Commission” shows that his key followers also found it necessary to flee. Some believe that Jesus made it all the way to India where he lived for decades. That seems unlikely as the evidence would indicate that those he cared about most headed northwest to Gallia and Britannia. But the truth may never be known… we know little factually about his public life so it should not surprise us to know far less about what needed to be a secret “after-death” life.
IX. Was Jesus “the Christ”?
This may depend upon one’s concept of “Christ”. The Jewish concept of a Mashiach (or “Messiah”) has been greatly corrupted although the word Christ may be a translation of the word for Messiah. But there really isn’t any reason or necessity for the new theological conception of a redeeming third member of the “Holy Trinity” (as generally within Christianity) to have Jewish origins – except that the person who was transfigured (a good word for it) from Jesus into Jesus the Christ was firmly Jewish.
Personally, I have never understood why it is so difficult for Christians to simply accept the facts which are clearly written or readily apparent in their infallible “Word of God” (aka the “New Testament”). If God works in mysterious ways and with God all things are possible, then simply believe that Jesus was magically transformed into divinity. Give up all the other silly miracles, myths, and mysticism and rely upon one that doesn’t require a fake and falsified history. The only thing they have to forfeit is their fabricated “truth” – the truth about Jesus, the man. But I guess that is the problem. It may be possible that the truth about Jesus and what he stood for is far more powerful than any “church” or doctrine.
X. What did Jesus say and do that led to the success of Christianity:
Try as they may, the Christian Churches have never succeeded in circumventing or surmounting what Jesus said and did. Building upon the foundation Jesus created, Christianity built a structure that hides that foundation and which distracts most Christians from hearing Jesus’ truth. But it is the truth about Jesus which people sense and love:
- Jesus believed that inner values and personal choices outweigh compliance with any religious law or acceptance of religious doctrine.
- Jesus showed that what we do matters more than what we say.
- Jesus believed in inclusiveness, love, justice, and human kindness.
- Jesus accepted an independent Divine Will which superseded his own.
- Jesus lived such that others might find “salvation” through righteousness (following God’s Will).
- Jesus understood that love is the key element of God’s Will.
- Jesus hoped that “those who have ears will listen” and that there be among us a person who understands.
Jesus is the greatest of all humans because he loved God so much that he had to love other humans so much. Jesus was willing to sacrifice his life in the belief that doing so was what God wanted… and perhaps he was right after all.
 “The mashiach will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).” http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm.
 Christians get around this basic problem by holding that Jesus is not dead and will return to complete the Messianic Mission. We need not challenge this “belief”, but we can say with certainty that thus far there is no evidence supporting it. It is impossible to find another example in human history where any person is given so much credit or credence for something they haven’t yet done.
 We must, out of reason, reject tales of miracles and magic, and place the Gospels into their role of supporting a non-historical perspective.
 The use of this Aramaic term in the NT has led to confusion – Jesus was not a “Rabbi” in the modern sense and the translation of ῥαββουνί “teacher” from Greek to “Rabboni” (transliterated Aramaic) is probably not a title.
 Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56.
 Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:13
 Also mentioned as the son of James and/or brother of James. Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13.
 I repeat the obvious but ignored truth that Paul – the founder of Christianity – NEVER MET JESUS.
 The words were recorded in Greek, but Jesus would have spoken in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Matthew 4:17 and many others. In Hebrew - בתשובה, עבור מלכות השמים היא בהישג יד.
 As above. John 15:12…
 צִדְקֵֽנוּ׃ – Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16.
 Isaiah 62:1;2
 For example: “What goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you.” (GoT 14).
 As in burning opposing gospels, burning those who disagreed with them, and burning in Hell for such.
 In Judaism this special commemoration is called the “Seder” (from the Hebrew for “order”). In the time of Jesus this meal would have followed a well-established ritualistic sequence. But see also http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/was-jesus-last-supper-a-seder/.
 "Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Gen. 18:23-25). “Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground." God did so…” Judges 6:39). God’s willingness to adjust to human reasoning was clearly manifested in reversing the form of the “fleece miracle”. Despite Gideon’s concerns about incurring God’s displeasure by his hesitancy and requests he prioritizes the infirmities of the people. Note also 2 Samuel 6:10 and David’s favor with God despite disobedience.
 Note 2 Samuel 6:10 and David’s favor with God despite his repeated disobedience and sinning.
 Or, at least, Jesus thought that he must pass this “test” by God before being empowered to act on God’s behalf.
 The doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus is in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20; cf. Romans 3:22, cf. James 2:14). I find it silly that some Christians give Paul more credence than Jesus (as quoted in the NT) or his brother in this basic premise. The idea that righteousness arises totally from faith in the “resurrected Christ” would have abhorred Jesus.
 “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? – (Mark 15:34).
 Not only is this account unexpected, it was clearly intended as an addition to show fulfillment of a prophecy. The subsequent passages seem highly suspicious.
 Here and in the next reference, the word used in the word used in Matthew is σμα (soma/body) rather than πτμα (ptoma/corpse) – which is used elsewhere in the Gospel. (Matt. 27:58-9).
 The use of this special word is surprising as it appears only one other time in the Gospels: A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus… (Mark 14:51) where the term refers specifically to bedding (covering the “naked man”.).
 Myrrh is a resin, or sap-like substance, that comes from a tree called Commiphora myrrha. It is applied directly for soreness and swelling, hemorrhoids, bedsores, wounds, abrasions, and boils (WebMD). It has potent antioxidant activity and contains two primary active compounds called terpenoids and sesquiterpenes, both of which have anti-inflammatory effects. Historically, myrrh was used to treat wounds and prevent infections.
 The fact that the guards return to the chief priests is clear evidence that it was a Jewish guard and not a Roman one – in contrast with the story in the Gospel of Peter.
 John 20:19, also suggesting this was in Jerusalem as he met with them later near the Sea of Galilee.
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