that Hellenistic Jews enjoyed outside Palestine allowed the
creation of a Jewish literature written in Greek, which was
subsequently rejected in toto by Judaism and whose remains
were preserved by Christianity."
– Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion, p51.
in the cities of the eastern Mediterranean fused a multiplicity
of themes – Wisdom, Logos, Son of God, Son of Man, Redemptive
Sacrifice and Messiah – into a universal saviour God.
made little headway against rabbinic Judaism – but among
pagans disillusioned with their arbitrary traditional gods, the
mix found a following. Nowhere in
the saga does a genuine human life emerge. Every instance in the
godman's career is a set-piece, templated from an earlier source.
And the "character" of
Jesus who emerges from all this is neither a paragon
of virtue nor a simple philosopher – but then how could
he be, assembled as he is from the works of many hands over generations
of pious reflection?
Scripture Might Be Fulfilled"
works on the Christian godman were simple documents designed for
liturgical use. The figure of Jesus had no discernible features,
no true biography – merely attributes befitting his messianic
status, such as absolute assuredness and "authority" and
the concomitant display of
anger, irritation and pity of one who expects to be obeyed.
tenet of a higher morality, every pithy statement of priestly wisdom,
was coupled to the majestic name to give sanction and assurance
of its heavenly origin.
"A cycle of
lessons, or perhaps a manual for preachers, was drawn up for
ecclesiastical usage, and it was upon this liturgical foundation
that the Gospels were based."
– Grant, Jesus, p180.
that resulted – ambiguous, inconsistent, improbable and impossible – though
never intended as a "history", none the less masqueraded
as such, underpinning the claims of the faith to a unique historical
attempt to reconstruct the timetable or itinerary of the "ministry"
of the Christian saviour is doomed to failure because the gospels
are both inadequate
and contradictory. One moment Jesus is in the Decapolis, receiving
word of the death of John the Baptist, the next he is in Phoenicia
expelling demons. One moment Jesus is "transfiguring" on
a mountain in Syria, the next he is pontificating in Samaria.
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
No, Leviticus 19.18.
(pericopes) of the gospels had a life of their own. Thus the fig
tree of Jewish scripture, symbolic of the abundance
of the Torah itself
(Mishlei 27.18), becomes in Luke (13.6,9) a Jesus
which a fig tree does not bear
fruit, though patience is urged (Come on Jews!). Then in Matthew (21.19)
the parable is finessed into a Jesus miracle in
which he summarily curses a fig tree (Too late, Jews!).
wisdom statements, parables and miracles, all have their origin other
than in a walking, talking guru/Son of God.
"Some of the
exorcisms attributed to Jesus closely echo Hebrew and other
oriental accounts of similar triumphs ... Jesus' parables closely
resemble those of Jewish rabbis .."
– Grant, Jesus, pp 32,90.
Nowhere in the
Gospels is there a genuine two-way dialogue in which the Jesus
character actually responds in an authentic manner to his
audience. Their comments serve merely as entrees for his obtuse parables,
epithets of wisdom and sage advice.
He walks, he
talks, he moves on. He does not solicit genuine questions, he makes
no asides or humorous quips.
He never greets anyone in a friendly or familiar fashion. He
to contemporary events (the death and deification of Emperor
Augustus was surely worth a mention?) nor does he recall
incidents from his own life.
hero has all the personality of a vending machine dispensing pre-packed
gems of divine erudition.
of the Temple"?
Nothing more than a midrashic revamp of Zechariah's "in
that day there shall be no more a
in the house of the Lord" (14.21) and Hosea's "for
the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house" (9.15).
of the Multitude"? The source is 2 Kings 4.42,44,
a yarn in which the new man Elisha,
with double strength holy spirit, improves upon Elijah,
his mentor's miraculous feeding of a mere one hundred men.
The structure of this story is identical to the feeding of the
4000 (and the 5000!), even including small details, such
as left-overs and expressions of doubt.
In the supposed
"trial" of the godman, the exchange between
the high priest Caiaphas and Jesus (Matthew 26.63,64; Mark 14.61,62)
is clearly a contrived juxtapositioning, cross-associating
"Messiah", "Son of
God", "Son of Man" and Daniel's "coming
clouds of heaven” (7:13) into one pithy mission statement.
will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter
dark sayings of old." – Psalms 78.2
certainly did that: 65 times he opened his mouth
and a parable popped out. Indeed, Matthew tells
a parable spake he not unto them." (13.34).
a conversationalist, huh?
and Mark 8 indicate that no Jesus miracles were
circulating in the earliest
Christian preaching. The miracles that pepper the Gospels, and helped
elevate a Jesus figure into a deity, are nowhere to be found in
in the sanctity business soon made "signs and wonders" a necessary ingredient.
of Jewish scripture and the adaptation of Hellenistic
rapidly made good the inadequacy.
The Transfiguration of
Jesus on the mountain top of Mark 9.1,13
actually forged a link between the Christian hero and Israel's
two earlier prophets, Moses
and Elijah (Elias). They appear and "talk with Jesus" (what
about, one wonders?).
The purpose of this bizarre episode?
It serves to
make clear who is top dog in this assemblage of all-time greats. God
himself booms out "This is my beloved Son.
Hear him!" The whole incident is staged before conveniently
present "human witnesses" Peter, James, and John.
On the way down
from the mountain top Jesus tells his adoring groupies that "Elias
is indeed come", a cryptic but rather nice way of belittling
both Elias and his supposed alter ego, John the Baptist.
When the author
of Matthew comes to copy Mark's little story
he actually inserts an extra line at this point, just to make the
message crystal clear:
disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist."
of course, is dead by this point (he died in Mark 6) but
the authors of the gospels at the time of writing are contending
with the continuing
Baptist movement, which they will never entirely eradicate (it
metamorphosed into the Mandaean sect and indeed still exists).
In the miracle of the Gadareen
swine Jesus expels a horde of demons from a man possessed into a grazing
herd of pigs. The swine "ran violently down the steep place into
the sea, about two thousand of them; and drowned" (Mark 5.13).
Not only is Gadara 7
miles from the Sea of Galilee, it sits at an elevation of 1200 feet..
reach the sea (aka Lake Tiberias) one has to descend into the ravine
of the Yarmuk River, cross this major tributary of the Jordan and
scale the Golan Heights (2000 feet).
True, the Gospels refer
not to the city but to the "land of the Gadarenes".
But Luke clarifies:
"And when he went
forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had
devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house,
but in the tombs." – Luke 8.27.
And Matthew (who beefs
up the miracle to two demon-possessed men) adds:
"And behold, the whole
city came out to meet Jesus." – Matthew 8.28.
Gadara certainly has rock carved
tombs – scattered around the outskirts of the city, as we would
"And He was asking
him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said to Him, ‘My
name is Legion; for we are many.’" – Mark 5.9.
Is the reference to "Legion"
a clue to the story's true origin?
The 6th Legion Ferrata ('ironclad')
had been deployed in suppressing Jewish rebels throughout the 1st century.
After the final defeat of the
Bar Kosiba rebellion in 136, it's legionary base was transferred to Caparcotna (Megiddo) in Galilee, known thereafter as Legio – and is still known today
Legio is 25 miles from Gadara.
did they get their ideas from?
Joseph and "Mary"?
The little known book Joseph and Aseneth was
composed in Egypt sometime in the early 1st century.
Orthodox Jews had no time for it but early Christians found
Its heroine is an Egyptian priestess, a model of
virginity and chastity, who is secluded in
the temple serving the goddess
Neith and rejecting all suitors. Until, that is, a Jew
called Joseph turns up. Smitten by this righteous
guy, she rejects the old gods and is "reborn into
the Elect of Israel." It just so happens the
girl also looks like a Jewess:
girl was nothing similar to the virgins of the Egyptians,
but was in every respect similar to the daughters of
the Hebrews." (Ch.1)
Mary? No, the goddess Neith
After a visit from an angel she
delivers a soliloquy to the God of
Jacob. The angel then confers on her immortality.
With the heroine's conversion to the True God as
an example the narrative goes on to defend Gentiles
Now it just so happens,
that when, several decades later, the Christian novelists
were putting their nativity story together "Mary" is
a model of chastity and virginity, spends
her youth secluded in the Temple, meets "Joseph",
is visited by an angel, delivers a soliloquy (taken
from the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2) and
is rewarded with immortality..
Well, why waste a good yarn?
Saviour from on High –
Neo-Essenes to Para-Christians
The last gasp
of militant Judaism came with the defeat of Bar Kochba in 135 and
with it hopes
of a human saviour. With the military debacle,
a new generation of the 'pious right' again looked back to an
time and to the heavens for salvation.
At their foundation
the Essenes had rejected the polluting influences of Greece and
Rome. They had taken a prominent role in the armed resistance but
the debacle of 68-70 meant that the centre of gravity of their
the next seventy years their xenophobic attitudes softened.
itself remnants of the Essenes fractured, with a minority
element clinging to fading traditions of their human founder and
traditional Judaism. Some would
take on a new life in the 2nd century as Ebionites. Others
returned to memories of a more recent hero, a baptizing
eccentric called John.
In the Jewish
communities of the eastern cities (notably, the "seven
churches of Asia") the Hellenized Jews were the target of
many shades of charlatanism. Gnostic notions,
particularly Paul's concept of a divine Christ, influenced
certain groups of who began calling themselves the
The long dead Teacher
of Righteousness of the Essenes had been accorded, retrospectively,
the holy mantle of Messiah and given the name of Yeshua in
honour of the original successor of Moses. He now waited in Heaven,
until God realized his kingdom on earth.
of God movement had a core of itinerant prophets, supported
by a more extensive laity of “householders” who gave
them food and lodging and followed a less extreme commitment to
the movement’s principles.
At this stage
the Christian prophets began projecting their messiah personally into
an eschatological future – the imminent End of Days – and
with a very specific purpose in mind. His new, celestial role was
to "judge the quick and the dead", a
task formerly taken by God himself.
At the same time,
the fabrication – from scripture – of an earthly
their hero continued in earnest.
the faithful interpret the disparities, puzzling omissions and
flat contradictions in the life of their saviour as "evidence
of its truth."
is actually an eclectic assemblage of various prototypes never
enters their consciousness.
No wonder there
are a thousand different Jesuses – only a void can support
simultaneously such a plethora of speculation. The truth is simpler:
Jesus never existed.
Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion,The Weight of Three
Thousand Years (Pluto, 1997)
Michael Grant, Herod the Great (McGraw-Hill, 1971)
Neil Faulkner, Apocalypse-The Great Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD66-73 (Tempus,
Luigi Cascioli, The Fable of Christ (Luigi Cascioli, 2001)
David Watson, Jesus, then and Now (Lion, 1983)
W. P. Ball, et al, The Bible Handbook (AAP, 1986)
Nicholas Carter, The Christ Myth (Historical Review Press, 1993)
Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods (The Free Press, 2000)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
For your copy order:
a friend e-mail this page
Copyright © 2005
by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no
material herein is sold for profit.