early Christians scribes, convincing themselves that their
Lord and Saviour had indeed walked upon the earth, drew most
of their inspiration for his brief "ministry" and wonder-working
from the vast stock of Jewish sacred writings.
through the pious romances
heroics of Hebrew scripture they found edifying story lines
and useful characterisation to fill a whole eight weeks or so
"biography" – and that includes 40 days and
nights in the wilderness. Useful extra detail was gleaned from
the works of Josephus,
the Jewish historian and a handful of other texts. In
course, this so-called "life"
would all be back-projected as the "fulfillment of prophecy" – art
imitating artifice. Only the rational
mind sees plagiarism and deceit.
who already "believed" it was the
majestic design of an ineffable God, weaving the wondrous image
of his only
begotten son across several centuries of Jewish history, the
misadventure and internecine strife of an entire people reduced
prologue for the Christian godman.
from the Prophets
the clamour of the fundamentalists ... it is hard to
hear the Hebrew prophets on their own terms. What, in
fact, had they predicted about Jesus Christ or Christianity?
The answer is extremely simple: they had predicted nothing."
– Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version, p340.
to 2nd centuries BC was a golden age of Jewish prophecy,
a time when the priests of Judaism invented soothsayers both
major and minor (about 17
of them in all) whose prescience rationalized each successive
calamity and tribulation.
Thus, the apostasy
of the northern kingdom was followed by the anticipations
of Amos, Hosea and Micah. Israel's demise was belatedly foretold
by Jonah, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.
The failure of Josiah's
reforms in Judah and the Babylonian exile were foreseen in
the later works of Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Obadiah and an updated Jeremiah.
Ezra, Nehemiah and Isaiah, of course, anticipated the earlier deliverance
by the Persian king Cyrus, and the later Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi had
known of the Temple's rebuilding well in advance.
Joel and Daniel,
though a little late in getting published, foresaw the coming
of the Greeks.
reason (the intrusion of Greek rationalism?), after the 5th
century new prophets failed to materialize. Instead the old
such as Isaiah and Daniel got
updates – a veritable 'back to the future' in the arcane
art of soothsaying.
Christian heretics of the 2nd century the prophetic literature
manna from heaven. They shamelessly re-purposed the entire
corpus for a single design: the pre-figuring of
from On High – "End
the era of the Hasmoneans, even
within mainstream Judaism, the
conviction was growing that an eschatological
like Moses, Amos and Hosea of old, who would soon reappear
to deliver God's judgement on a sinful world. This prophet would
anoint a 'messiah' (a 'Christ' in Greek translation) who
would once again deliver his people from their time of trial.
In the minds of the pious fantasists three types of
hero – priest, king and prophet – blurred
and took on each other's traits.
Thus in the
5th century Book of Kings (later split into two books)
we have the delightful story of Elijah
the Tishbite and
a foretaste of an elaborate fantasy later to be ascribed to
more illustrious hero.
seems, passed his apprenticeship in a wilderness east
of the Jordan river known as the Kerith Ravine. Here he was
brought bread and meat by ravens. He moved on to the
town of Zarephath and the hospitality of a starving widow. In
Elijah performed a feeding miracle: he "multiplied" her
barrel of meal and jug of oil so that they never ran out. (1
presence of the holy man the widow's child died but his death
afforded Elijah the opportunity – with the True God's
help, of course – to raise him back to life:
LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child
came into him again, and he revived."
– 1 Kings
After spending 40
days and nights in the desert Elijah comes upon Elisha plowing
his field with twelve oxen and calls him as
his disciple (1 Kings 19.1,21). Twelve, of course, is a biblical
magic number, symbolizing the tribes of Israel.
abandon (later to be seen in someone else's disciples)
Elisha "went after Elijah, and ministered unto him", having cooked
up the oxen and kissed his parents goodbye! (I Kings
adventures vanquishing false-gods, a Moses-like dividing
of the waters of the river Jordan (2 Kings 2.8), and
with a successor in place,
the scene is now set for Elijah's grand finale, being raised
But first he
assures Elisha that if "thou see me when I am
taken from thee" he will get a "double
portion" of holy spirit. Cue the celestial transporter:
there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and
parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind
saw it, and he cried, My father, my father." – 2
The new man
Elisha, with double-strength Holy Spirit, immediately repeats
the water trick (2 Kings 2.14). It is the start
of a remarkable career of blessings and curses which upstage
his mentor. Debt relief via an endless supply of saleable oil
(4.1,7). Food miracles involving wild vine and
gourds (4.41) and the feeding of 100 men with just 20
loaves (with leftovers!) (4.42,44).
He both cures
a leper (2 Kings 5.14) and then inflicts leprosy
upon his own servant (and his descendents forever!)
(5.27). He creates an army of horses and chariots (6.17) and
both blinds and restores the sight of a whole
Syrian army (6.18, 20).
And of course
what sort of prophet would he be without powers over
life and death. To a childless woman he grants
a child (2 Kings 4:16) and when the child dies from a fall he restores
him to life (4:34):
went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his
mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his
hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh
of the child waxed warm."
Even when dead
Elisha's bones have miraculous properties:
came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they
spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher
of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up
on his feet." – 13.21.
purpose of this awesome Jewish magician is actually rather prosaic.
Via an unnamed "child of the prophets" Elisha anoints
Jehu king of Israel and sets him the task of massacring
the entire royal house of Ahab.
a revisionist historian's purpose in a re-telling of theocratic-politics
in 8th century BC Judaea. The point has to be made that,
who you are, if you
outside the officially sanctioned belief system of the priests
you will be murdered.
Who would have
guessed that centuries later another generation of priestly fraudsters
would be pillaging the Elijah/Elisha saga for elements
to augment an even grander story.
Why waste a good yarn
of Moreh, south side (Shunem). Elisha raises
the dead son – the only child – of an
(2 Kings 4.32,35).
of Moreh, north side (Nain). Jesus raises the dead
son – the only child – of an old woman.
Bed of Saviours
of this fellow in the Hebrew bible is in the list of Adam's descendents
found in Genesis. Enoch is the sixth
generation from Adam, father of Methuselah and
great-grandpa' to Noah, living to the grand old-age of
365. The only other interesting snippet we learn of Enoch is
that the scribbler who dreamed up the genealogy breaks the poetic
pattern of "and he died" for Enoch alone.
Instead we get this:
walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." – Genesis 5.24.
The coded message
is that Enoch was
one of those rare gems, a "righteous man", and that,
just like Elijah, God raised
him to heaven without the unpleasant business of dying
Not much to go on, but believe it or not the basis for a vast
outpouring of Enochian literature around the beginning of the Common
Era. The Book of Jubilees made an early contribution
to embellishing the name and reputation of 'Enoch', naming a wife
and sundry relatives unknown to Genesis.
Over a period
of 200 years or so – particularly during the
Maccabean struggle against Hellenization – several major
fantasies featured this ethereal hero, five of them eventually
collected into the Book of Enoch:"The
Watchers" (fallen angels, chained up by god.); "Parables"; "Astronomical
Treatise"; "Dream Visions"; and a "Letter
to his children".
Among Enoch's numerous adventures are a descent to hell,
a visit (with an angel) to the mountain tops,
and the gift of eternal life.
'Parables' introduced the novel concept a divine
figure standing alongside God, pre-existing
from before the creation, and taking over many of God's
attributes and functions. In particular, the mystery guest gets
the job of sitting on the heavenly throne and judging
he is identified only as the Elect
One, the Anointed One, and the Son of Man but
the final chapter of Parables identifies this exotic
character – none other than Enoch himself!
angel said to me, 'You are the Son of Man who was born to righteousness'."
to wait for the later re-make to get the starring role!
From Enoch to Jesus?
A trace of
the primordial saviour Enoch is even to be found in the New
Testament, in the quasi-Jewish, mildly apocalyptic, text
which masquerades as the "Epistle of Jude".
This brief letter targets "filthy
dreamers ... turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness
... feasting with you
... walking after their own lusts."
– who would imagine that charlatans would
make use of religion to con a living out of the gullible and
get their hands on the women?
Tellingly, Jude draws its curses on the fornicators from
the non-biblical Book of Enoch (1.9) and
the equally non-biblical "Assumption of Moses" (a
yarn in which the Devil, on the basis that Moses is a murderer,
claims the body).
Enoch has moved on from his Genesis days. He's now a
prophet of the Lord's Judgement:
Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying,
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of
To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all
that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly
deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all
hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
– Jude 1.
The tales of
Enoch also influenced another quasi-Jewish, seriously apocalyptic,
tract – Revelation.
In this entertaining
drivel, Enoch himself doesn't get a mention but a character called Christ is
moving up the pecking order.
Melchizedek, King of Salem
With a name
that means "righteous king of peace", this
phantom has a curious bit part in Genesis – to deliver
the blessing of "the most high" god ("El Elyon")
to Abraham. The occasion is the successful slaughter of
an alliance of enemy kings (Genesis 14.18,20). An obviously delighted
over a tithe of everything to the (non-Israelite) priest/king Melchizedek.
curious about this is the clearly implied pecking order. Melchizedek
blesses Abraham; Abraham gives Melchizedek his
rake-off. Yet it is Abraham who has been chosen by the Lord Almighty
to sire a "great nation." So what are we to make of the "righteous
king of peace"? Why isn't he siring a great nation?
from the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QMelch) throws a little light in
this dark corner (in truth, the original story was just
badly thought out – a bit like John the Baptist baptizing
Jesus in Mark's fable). The scroll tells us that Melchizedek
is a "heavenly being who will bring salvation," a
being identified as a personification of the the archangel Michael – see
below (Porter, p39).
We have another contribution from gnostic literature. Here, Melchizedek
is not only a heavenly priest but a warrior also:
the Nag Hammadi documents describes him as a prominent heavenly
priest and warrior figure who, in being baptized, offered himself in sacrifice, in a way reminiscent of
In the Slavonic
version of 2 Enoch, Melchizedek's old and sterile mother conceived him miraculously, apart from sexual intercourse."
Companion to the Bible, p511,512.
From Melchizedek to Jesus?
Like Enoch, Melchizedek also scrapes into the New Testament, in the so-called "Epistle to the Hebrews",
where he serves to legitimise the emerging composite superhero
known as Jesus Christ
and hand-on to him certain characteristics.
had been the inheritance of the Levitical priesthood and the "order
Yet Jesus Christ, "out
of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing" (7.14),
single-handedly replaces the entire Levite/Zadokite priesthood
and becomes the perfect high priest "forever".
It is useful,
therefore, that Melchizedek defines another "order" – even
if that "order" has only two members – Melchizedek
the forerunner is for us entered, even
Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." – Hebrews
is yet far more evident: for that after
the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but
after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou
art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
In the imaginative mind of the author of Hebrews Melchizedek was "without
father, without mother" (i.e. had a miraculous birth), had "neither
beginning of days, nor end of life" (i.e. was immortal), and
was made "like unto the Son
paid by Abraham to Melchizedek in the original Genesis verse,
therefore, could be held to "prefigure" the subordination
of Judaism to its upstart heresy – Christianity.
the triad of prototypes for the earth/heaven interface
of Jesus is none other than "Michael the Archangel",
he who contends with the Devil for the body of Moses in Jude (1.9)
and leads the good fight in Revelation:
was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against
the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in
In Jewish scripture, notably the multi-author Book of Daniel,
the divine protector of righteous Jews is identified with the archangel
Most of Daniel was
written during the 2nd century BC Maccabean revolt when various "beasts from the sea" posed
a dire threat to Jewish intransigence. The story sets a "righteous
hero", Daniel, in an earlier time of trial (the Babylonian
exile) and has "Michael, one of the chief princes" protect
The yarn is
actually based on a much earlier (14th century BC) Canaanite
text found at Ugarit, Syria. This Tale of Aqhat stars Dan'il (dn'il),
a righteous king and judge.
course, symbolizes Israel and reassuringly, "shall
Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children
of thy people." (12.1)
notable for its apocalyptic vision of the future which was developed
into that gore-fest known as Revelation. Daniel also
has a trailer for the celestial deliverer:
"I saw in
the night visions, and, behold, one like
the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came
to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before
And there was
given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people,
nations, and languages, should serve him:
his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass
away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
– Daniel 7.13,14
Who is this "one like the Son of Man"?
The archangel Michael? Daniel himself?
The Messiah? Of course, there is no clear answer.
else, we have the appearance of an angelic being as man
The story is a work-in-progress.
Daniel inspired the author of Revelation and unlike the
Gospels, Revelation is a genuine 1st century tract. In
this apocalyptic vision the Christ character is far from fully
developed. Christ vies with Moses and Michael in the celestial
pecking order, rival agents of God's will.
Of course Wisdom is in the mix there, too (she who was Astarte when Yahweh had
a girlfriend). Now an emanation, Wisdom can take
the form of Michael the Archangel, or the Holy Spirit, and ride
down a sun beam to impregnate the Blessed Virgin.
If all this
sounds ridiculous bear in mind it is precisely what a group of
Christians called Jehovah's Witnesses believe. In only
two verses does the Bible mentions "archangel". Jude
9 identifies "Michael the Archangel" and 1
Thessalonians 4.16 says Jesus will return to earth with "the voice of the
then, Jesus must be the Archangel
maybe the whole sorry saga is a priestly fantasy, regurgitated nonsense
keeping the men of piety in business, peddling hope to the
oppressed and collecting tithes for themselves.
Did They Get Their Ideas From?
Septuagint – Greek
translation of the Jewish oracles and a primary source
document for the Christian
we have not an innumerable multitude of books among
us, disagreeing from and contradicting
one another, as the Greeks have, but only twenty-two
books, which contain the records of all the past times;
which are justly believed to be divine."
– Josephus, Against Apion, 1.8 c. 100.
In the centuries
around the beginning of the Common Era the sacred literature
of the Jews numbered in the hundreds.
Only a few texts were actually selected for the 'canon'
of Hebrew scripture, those stories that tradition had
First and foremost were the books of 'the Law', originally
written during the reign of King Josiah (641-611
BC). The so-called Mosaic code or Torah (aka the Pentateuch)
formed the core of an 'approved list' drawn up in the 4th
century BC by an author who was a scribe/politico and racial
purist. He wrote under the pseudonym of Esdras (Ezra).
The set of books known as 'the
Prophets' or '12
heroes of Israel' (there are actually 17 of them)
gained recognition during the early 2nd century BC.
'The Writings' – psalms, proverbs,
and wisdom literature – were the last to receive
the priestly seal of approval and the rabbis argued over
some of them into the 3rd century AD.
But as it was, a reconstituted council of the Sanhedrin
met in Jamnia in 90 and again in 118 AD, and pronounced
on what was divine and what was profane.
they rejected the newer books – such
as Jubilees, Enoch, Maccabees, Proverbs, Song of Solomon,
Ecclesiastes and Esther – the
very works popular with proto-Christian heretics.
"Those who undertake to write
histories, do not, I perceive, take that trouble
on one and the same account, but for many reasons ...
there are not a few who are induced to draw their
historical facts out of darkness into light, and
to produce them for the benefit of the public,
on account of the great importance of the facts
themselves with which they have been concerned."
– Josephus, Antiquities
of the Jews
our primary source of the history of the Jews in the 1st
century AD. He was
also a primary source for the 2nd century Christian novelists.
His histories provided an essential background
and authentic detail which allowed them
to place their fabricated saviour in a convincing historical
Four of Josephus's
works survive: The
Jewish War (a history of
the Jewish revolt against Rome, 66-74); Antiquities
of the Jews (a more comprehensive history
of the Jews, based
mainly on Jewish scripture); Against
defence of Judaism); and an autobiography Life (which
reveals some interesting parallels to the 'life' of the apostle
J. R. Porter, The Lost Bible (Duncan Baird, 2001)
Nicholas Carter, The Christ Myth (Historical Review Press, 1993)
Michael Grant, Jesus (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977)
N. Page, The Bible Book (Harper Collins, 2002)
Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version (Penguin, 1991)
J. Packer, D. Williams The Bible Application Handbook (Eagle, 1999)
Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming (Random House 1986)
Gordan Thomas, The Trial (Bantam, 1987)
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Copyright © 2005
by Kenneth Humphreys.
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