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The first Secret of historical Jesus: Did Jesus die on the cross?

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My goal in this article is not to analyze the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus is well established by many recognized historians, based on whatever historical evidence is found so far about Jesus' life and death. The life of Jesus, his miracles, and the meaning of his teachings had been studied and interpreted for centuries, beginning in 1827 with the famous theologian named Heinrich Paulus. Lately, there are so many historians writing about the historical Jesus that it's hard to pick and choose which one of them is the best. However, some of these names that stand out for me are Bart D. Ehrman who wrote a series of books like "Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium," "Jesus Interrupted," "Misquoting Jesus," Richard E. Rubenstein who wrote "When Jesus Became God" and last but not least Michael Wood who wrote "Jesus Secret." 

Having read all their books and the books of other authors, it became clear that there is so little evidence to actually point out if Jesus was the Son of God, and what all his parables meant. However, from this entire amount of studies one thing becomes clear that despite whom Jesus was Jesus is above all an historical figure that has been misinterpreted, misquoted, misunderstood, and misjudged. Looking at the historical point of view and the evidences found it is also clear that apostle Paul could be considered the founder of Christianity who was someone who heard someone that new someone who once met Jesus.      

So, based on this little evidence and from the historical point of view it is very hard to say what Jesus secret was. Also the facts and arguments that Christian religion brings forward to convince us who Jesus was, are not quite reliable since they are mostly stolen phrases from people who were secretly talking and sharing Jesus' secrets. Above all the first Christian movement (based on historical facts) has nothing to do with the sophisticated Christian religion that was formed years and even centuries later. Those first Christians who sacrificed their lives to keep Jesus secrets hidden from the rest as they were instructed, those first Christians who followed his teachings with devotion were later labeled heretics. Why? Because secrets were secrets and were not to be shared with anyone who wanted to use them for their own purposes and profits. 

Unfortunately, since these first sporadic Christian movements did not have power and authority were later overpowered by others who declared themselves Christians and quickly organized themselves into a sophisticated hierarchic religion supported by their governments which immediately saw the benefits of such movements. Richard Rubenstein gives us a vivid picture of these events in his book "When Jesus became God." But as we all know, fortunately, secrets remained secretive. This new and now old Christian religion had no evidence about who Jesus really was, yet they became very powerful and popular. On the other hand this was a good thing. By making Jesus a divine figure while they fulfilled their thirst for power, they did in fact make Jesus into a well-known and a well-spoken historical figure.

So, since historical Jesus is said and done many times by now, what evidence am I going to use to analyze Jesus' secrets? The evidence that I will use is found in Jesus words and in his teachings. In this analysis I will use the criteria of dissimilarity that I learned by reading Mr. Ehrman's books, historian and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina. This is how he explains the dissimilarity criteria "Dissimilar traditions, that is, those that do not support a clear Christian agenda, or that appear to work against it, are difficult to explain unless they are authentic. They are therefore more likely to be historical." I will in fact use a bit more than just the dissimilarity criteria. I will also use what I call the common sense criteria. As Thomas Edison once said "The three things that are most essential to achievement are common sense, hard work and stick-to-it-iv-ness." 

The common sense criteria that I am going to use here means what a normal person would do in a similar situation, what could be a normal reaction to certain events. I will then analyze the information to see if this explanation of Jesus' secrets based on these two criteria fits into the shoe as Mr. Ehrman would say. Therefore if the conclusions about Jesus' secrets based on these criteria were to be true then these secrets should explain the meaning of Jesus' teaching through his parables and also fit the description of the messiah based on Jewish prophesies. This should also explain why only some followers recognized him as the messiah. Once we have all these questions answered we might able to understand whether this was all a plan the fact that the messiah was not recognized right away or whether it just so happened?

I will start with the fact that Jesus' own disciples were afraid to accept that they had anything to do with Jesus during his execution, these same disciples were the ones who spread the word about Jesus as a messiah and cared less about their lives after. What must have happened at the so called "resurrection?" Did Jesus really die and then was resurrected? The answer to this question will be the first secret of Jesus. Who Jesus really was will be the second secret, and why they had to keep it a secret, will be the third secret. In this article I will cover only the first secret. Did Jesus really die on the cross? If this question is answered then many other questions that derive after this point will be answered as well as self-explanatory like: did he die to take away the sins of the world? Are we saved now since he died for us? Is believing in Jesus' death and resurrection all we need to do in order to be saved?

It is well established that the Christian religion, the one that we know today, not the first real Christian movement, believes in the resurrection of Jesus therefore for this religion and its followers the salvation comes from believing that Jesus was the Son of God who died and was resurrected. From my point of view and the view of many others this is not fair. Why? Because this goes against Jesus' main teaching "treat others the same way you would like to be treated." The reader can get a well-thought and deep analysis of this teaching in the pages of Michael Wood's book "The Jesus Secret." As Michael examines the teaching of Jesus from every angle, salvation does not come from one's belief but from one's action. 

Therefore, believing that Jesus was the Son of God who died on the cross and then was resurrected must not be the salvation because this is just a belief. Say someone believes that Jesus was the Son of God who died and was resurrected but this doesn't stop him or her from being rude, mistreating others and even become a criminal. How many were killed in the name of Jesus Christ during the Christian Crusades in 11th  and 12 th   centuries? Unfortunately and very disappointing, even innocent children were killed in the name of Jesus. 

Believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that this belief will set you apart enabling you to go to heaven or hell is absolutely wrong. This essential argument that "Jesus was the Son of God, and he died and was resurrected" which is the fundamental point of Christianity opens the door for many sinners to declare themselves as pure. Of course anyone can do this: believing in Jesus as the Son of God is very easy. Believing that "you are eating his body when you receive the bread during the Sunday service at church?" crazy! But who cares as long as you don't say it out loud. Therefore this belief does not set anyone apart from others, and cannot be used as a condition to determine salvation.

How do other faiths and beliefs view Jesus? Other religions accepted Jesus as a prophet but nothing more. Unfortunately Jews didn't even accept him as a prophet. Some believe that he did not die but appeared like he was dead. Some believe that he died and his followers turned him into a myth. Unfortunately some others believed that he deserved it. So, we have the following possible outcomes: Jesus died and was resurrected, which makes Christians right, Jesus did not die but seemed like he died, and Jesus died but his followers made him legendary.

As I explained above the first outcome that Jesus died and was resurrected is flat wrong because not only does it open the door for many sinners to declare themselves clean but gives them the opportunity to scream in righteous people's faces that they (sinners) are better than the rest of us. Why? Because they go to church, they repeat the same phrase over and over and they believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. If you dare to face them you will not succeed. They are louder and will make you feel guilty and make you wish you had never spoken the truth. 

Why? Because that is the only thing they can hang onto the belief that they will be saved no matter what they do. To them you are a sinner. This goes completely against Jesus own teaching, and obviously needs more attention and time to explain, which I will do in another article in the future.

Let's analyze the other outcome that Jesus died but his followers made him legendary. Is this a possible outcome? Yes, this is very much possible however, it is not normal human behavior. Why? Because when the leader of a movement like this one dies persecuted by authorities, usually the rest of the followers would flee for their lives. And this is the exact reaction that Jesus' disciples exhibited when he was being judged by authorities. And this is normal and acceptable behavior for humans: "my leader is put to death, I better hide and never mention that I knew him." However, Jesus disciples' behavior later on goes against common sense therefore something must have happened to make them change their minds and even give them the courage to face persecution. 

Not only did they believe and declare that Jesus was the messiah at that point (there is historical evidence for this) but they were not even afraid anymore. Let me paraphrase the last part better: They were afraid of persecution but somehow they preferred dying than denying that Jesus was the messiah. We must keep in mind, based on historical evidence (read "Jesus Interrupted" by Bart Ehrman) that they never said that Jesus was the Son of God, but they repeatedly confessed that Jesus was the messiah. What proof did they have that Jesus was the messiah? This is still an enigma. Historical evidences and gospels are not enough. Above all, they seem to contradict each other. Therefore the logical conclusion is that this proof or evidence that Jesus was the messiah must have been kept secret. Why? I believe that the reason for this must be related to the second and third secrets which I am going to analyze in my next article. Now here is where things become complicated. 

The common sense criteria tell us that if a certain proof existed that Jesus was the messiah and had to be kept secret then only some people were allowed to share or know about it. Then for the rest of those who heard the story that Jesus was alive on the third day, those were the outsiders not the insiders (they did not know the real truth) they started to put the pieces together and create their own myth of Jesus as a divine being. Mistakes that followed interpreting Jesus' life and death after this step were both genuine for the some and evil for others. Some people in power saw this as an opportunity to manipulate the mass and use that massive movement for their own benefit, while some other innocent people truly and genuinely believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

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Ardiana Bani Cohn, author, life coach, and a college instructor. Teaching math and science for 22 years, continuisly reading and taking courses in psychology, philosophy and metaphysics all these created the ground for discovering laws of living, (more...)
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