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The Historical Jesus and New Testament Rubbish: Part One: The Road to Golgotha

By       Message Walter Uhler     Permalink
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Why "false" words? Because, as Professor Aslan tells us, "In the entire history of Jewish thought there is not a single line of scripture that says the messiah is to suffer, die, and rise on the third day, which may explain why Jesus does not bother to cite any scripture to back up his incredible claim."

Luke's account of Jesus' virgin birth does not refer to the fulfillment of prophecy. It is told as if it were a historical fact. According to Luke, who probably wrote his gospel in the Greek city of Antioch some 60 to 70 years after Jesus' crucifixion, the angel Gabriel went to Nazareth to tell the Virgin Mary that "the Holy Spirit" would come upon her and, thus, she would conceive the Son of God.

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But, renowned Jesus scholar, John Dominic Crossan, has posed a vexing question for Christians who believe that story. As I paraphrase him, he asks: "Do Christians also believe the account by the Roman historian Suetonius, who, in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, writes about the divine conception of Octavius, who was born of a union between divine Apollo and the human Atia?"

Suspecting most Christians would believe the Bible, but doubt Suetonius, Crossan adds: "Either all such divine conceptions from Alexander to Augustus and from Christ to Buddha should be accepted literally and miraculously or all of them should be accepted metaphorically and theologically." After all, "It is not morally acceptable to say directly and openly that our story is truth but yours is myth; ours is history, but yours is a lie." [Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 1998, p.28]

Although the divine conception of Jesus is no more believable than the divine conception of Octavius, biblical testimony about the miracles performed by Jesus appears to be supported by historical evidence. According to Professor Aslan, "in first-century Palestine, professional wonder worker was a vocation as well established as that of a woodworker or mason, and far better paid. Galilee especially abounded with charismatic fantasts claiming to channel the divine for a nominal fee."

In fact, the recently deceased professor of Jewish studies, Geza Vermes, coined the term "charismatic Judaism," and claimed (in his recent book, Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea), that it is impossible to understand the rise of Christianity without a proper grasp of "charismatic Judaism."

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He defined "charisma" as "the display of divinely granted power." (p.3) Thus, Elijah behaved charismatically when he "miraculously multiplied flour and oil" [and] revived the son of the widow who sheltered him." (p.6)

Elijah's miracle-working cloak was inherited by Elisha, who also performed miracles, such as bringing a boy back to life. Honi-Onias from the first century B.C. E. and Hanina ben Dosa (a younger contemporary of Jesus) also qualified as charismatic.

According to legend, "Hanina's closeness to God, his sonship of God, was constantly proclaimed by a heavenly voice." (p. 25) Not only was he a rain-maker like Elijah and Onias, he miraculously cured of the son of Rabban Gamaliel and turned vinegar into oil.

(Another charismatic contemporary of Jesus, Apollonius of Tyana, stands outside Professor Vermes' analyses, because he was pagan. But Apollonius gathered disciples, predicted the future, healed the sick, rid people of demons and raised people from the dead. Some of his followers believed he was the Son of God, and some claimed that he ascended bodily into heaven. [See Bart Ehrman, The New Testament, 2004, pp. 19-20])

"For the Jews of antiquity sickness, sin and the devil were three interconnected realities"Sin, brought about by the devil, was punished by sickness. In consequence, the healing of a disease was tantamount to forgiveness of sin, and both cure and forgiveness were the effects of exorcism." (Vermes, pp. 32-33)

Mr. Vermes noted that the Synoptic Gospels mention at least ten specific cases of exorcism performed by Jesus. Curiously, the Fourth Gospel fails to mention even one, which, in Vermes' view, "bodes ill for the general historical reliability of John."(p. 35)

(The gospel of John, probably written in Ephesus some 70 to 90 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, is the least reliable of all the gospels. For example, John claims Jesus cleansed the Temple at the very beginning of his ministry, contradicting Mark who claims the event occurred during the last week of his life. John claims that Jesus was crucified on the day preceding the Passover meal, which also contradicts the testimony of Mark. Incredibly, John claims to know the details of a private conversation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. While the Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus headed into the wilderness after his baptism and was tempted by the Devil, John places him elsewhere.)

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(Although both Professor Aslan and Professor Vermes are convinced that all four gospels were revised to conform to early church tradition, the tampering with John is obvious and clumsy. Consider John 13:36 and 14:5 where Peter and Thomas respectively ask Jesus to tell them where he is going. Yet, in John 16:5, Jesus says "Now I am going to the one who sent me, yet none of you asks me "Where are you going?'")

(Finally, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, "where only Jewish leaders oppose Jesus," John blames "the Jews." [Vermes, p. 129] Such hateful rubbish has contributed to 2,000 years of anti-Semitism.)

What set Jesus apart from most other exorcists and healers, in Aslan's view, was his practice of performing miracles free of charge. They not only undermined the profitability of the corrupt Temple priesthood, they also gained him a large following.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)

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