there a Jesus? Of
course there was a Jesus many!
The archetypal Jewish hero was Joshua (the successor of
Moses) otherwise known as Yehoshua (Yeshua) bin Nun (Jesus of
the fish). Since the name Jesus (Yeshua or Yeshu in Hebrew, Iesous
in Greek, source of the English spelling) originally was a title (meaning saviour,
derived from Yahweh Saves) probably every band in
the Jewish resistance had its own hero figure sporting this moniker,
first century Jewish historian mentions no fewer than nineteen different
Yeshuas/Jesii, about half of them contemporaries of the supposed
Christ! In his Antiquities, of the twenty-eight high
priests who held office from the reign of Herod the Great to
the fall of the Temple, no fewer than four bore the name Jesus: Jesus
ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus
ben Damneus and Jesus ben Gamaliel. Even Saint
Paul makes reference to a rival magician, preaching another
Jesus (2 Corinthians 11,4). The surfeit of early Jesuses
strange to be a coincidence!
to the Biblical account, Pilate offered the Jews
the release of just one prisoner and the cursed
race chose Barabbas rather than gentle Jesus.
But hold on a minute: in the original text studied by Origen
(and in some recent ones) the chosen criminal was Jesus
Barabbas and Bar Abba in Aramaic means Son
of the Father!
Are we to believe that Pilate had a Jesus, Son of God and
a Jesus, Son of the Father in his prison at the
Perhaps the truth is that a single executed criminal helped
flesh out the whole fantastic fable.
Gospel writers, in scrambling
details, used the Aramaic Barabbas knowing that few Latin
or Greek speakers would know its meaning.
Sirach. This Jesus was reputedly the author of the Book
of Sirach (aka 'Ecclesiasticus,
or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach'), part of
Old Testament Apocrypha. Ben Sirach, writing in Greek about
BC, brought together Jewish 'wisdom' and Homeric-style
Pandira. A wonder-worker during the reign of Alexander
Jannaeus (106-79 BC), one of the most ruthless of the Maccabean
kings. Imprudently, this Jesus launched into a career of end-time
prophecy and agitation which upset the king. He met his own
premature end-time by being hung on a tree and on the
eve of a Passover. Scholars have speculated this Jesus founded
the Essene sect.
Ananias. Beginning in 62AD, this Jesus had caused disquiet
in Jerusalem with a non-stop doom-laden mantra of Woe
to the city. He prophesied rather vaguely:
voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from
the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy
house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides,
and a voice against the whole people."
– Josephus, Wars 6.3.
flogged by the Romans, Jesus ben Ananias was released as nothing more dangerous
than a mad man. He died during the siege of Jerusalem from a
rock hurled by a Roman catapult.
ben Saphat. In the insurrection of 68AD that wrought
havoc in Galilee, this Jesus had led the rebels in Tiberias ("the leader of a seditious tumult of mariners and poor people" – Josephus, Life 12.66).
When the city was about to fall to Vespasians legionaries
he fled north to Tarichea on the Sea of Galilee.
ben Gamala. During 68/69 AD this Jesus was a leader
of the peace party in the civil war wrecking
Judaea. From the walls of Jerusalem he had remonstrated
with the besieging Idumeans (led by James and
John, sons of Susa). It did him no good. When
the Idumeans breached the walls he was put to death
and his body thrown to the dogs and carrion birds.
ben Thebuth. A priest who, in the final capitulation
of the upper city in 69AD, saved his own skin by surrendering
the treasures of the Temple, which included two holy
candlesticks, goblets of pure gold, sacred curtains
and robes of the high priests. The booty figured prominently
in the Triumph held for Vespasian and his son Titus.
But was there a crucified Jesus?
ben Stada was a Judean agitator who gave the Romans a
headache in the early years of the second century. He met
his end in
the town of Lydda (twenty five miles from Jerusalem) at the
hands of a Roman crucifixion crew. And given the scale that
Roman retribution could reach at the height of the
siege of Jerusalem the Romans were crucifying upwards of five
hundred captives a day before the city walls dead
heroes called Jesus would (quite literally) have been thick
on the ground. Not one merits a full-stop in the great universal
then with so many Jesuses could there not have been a Jesus
for this notion is that absolutely nothing at all corroborates
the sacred biography and yet this 'greatest story' is peppered
with numerous anachronisms, contradictions and absurdities. For
example, at the time that Joseph and the pregnant Mary are said
to have gone off to Bethlehem for a supposed Roman census, Galilee
(unlike Judaea) was not a Roman province and therefore ma and
pa would have had no reason to make the journey. Even if Galilee had been
imperial territory, history knows of no universal census ordered
by Augustus (nor any other emperor) and Roman taxes were
based on property ownership not on a head count. Then again,
we now know that Nazareth did not exist before the second
is mentioned not at all in the Old Testament nor by Josephus,
who waged war across the length and breadth of Galilee (a territory
about the size of Greater London) and yet Josephus records
the names of dozens of other towns. In fact most of the Jesus-action takes
place in towns of equally doubtful provenance, in hamlets so
small only partisan Christians know of their existence (yet
well attested pagan cities, with extant ruins, failed to make
the Jesus itinerary).
alert us to wholesale fakery here is that practically
all the events of Jesuss supposed life appear in the lives of mythical
figures of far more ancient origin. Whether we speak of miraculous
birth, prodigious youth, miracles or wondrous healings all such
'signs' had been ascribed to other gods, centuries before any Jewish
holy man strolled about. Jesuss supposed utterances and wisdom
statements are equally common place, being variously drawn from Jewish
scripture, neo-Platonic philosophy or commentaries made by Stoic and
Did They Get Their Ideas From?
'Lord's Prayer'? – No, just re-hashed Jewish
Mediaeval monks counted the repetitive chanting
of 'Our Fathers' on pebbles or beads strung on a
cord. Most knew no Latin and had no idea what they
The New Testament is awash with prayers, hymns, and confessional statements.
Tellingly, the early church did not attribute to its superhero the
actual words of any of its prayers or hymns (something we might
have expected of a great 'Teacher') ... A sole exception appears
to be 'Our Father' – but
What becomes obvious is that the 'Lord's Prayer' evolved along
with the legend of 'the Lord' himself.
In the first
four centuries of Christianity references to the 'Lord's
Prayer' actually are quite rare. Sure, it is to
be found in Matthew chapter 6 and Luke chapter
11. But none of the Christian Apologists,
for example, even mention it by name! Archaeology provides
little evidence either: the 'Bodmer XIV' papyrus and
another found in Antinoöpolis point to the 3rd
or 4th centuries.
But a version
of the prayer is to be found in a curious early second
century document called the Didache.
In this tract (aka Teaching of the Twelve Apostles)
we find a familiar refrain (chapter 8.2):
'Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord hath commanded
in his gospel so pray ye: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy
name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as
we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil: for thine is the power, and the
glory, for ever.'
Proof positive? Not at all – we are talking of a document rejected by
the Church in the 3rd century! The twelve apostles mentioned in the full
title of the Didache are not twelve flesh and blood disciples
of a Jesus but a reference to the twelve sons of Jacob representing the
twelve tribes of Israel.
The Didache does
not appear in any Bible because it is quasi-Jewish
scripture!! According to this pre-gospel
tract, "in the last days" it is "the
Deceiver of the world" who is to
appear as "the Son of God, and shall
do signs and wonders " not any divine
carpenter (chapter 16.3,4)! The legend is still evolving.
In the Didache there is no virgin birth, no
ministry, no crucifixion. 'Jesus' gets 4 mentions,
to be sure, but each time merely as the bringer of
some knowledge of 'the Lord' (that is, God).
devotions provide even earlier antecedents for the
prayer. One version of the Kaddish has
His great name be hallowed in the world which He
created, according to His will, and may He establish
His Kingdom … speedily and at a near time."
The invocation 'Father' (Abinu or Abba)
is common in Jewish liturgy (for example, in the 5th,
and 6th benedictions of the Shemoneh 'Esreh – the '18
blessings' – which according to tradition,
were composed during the Second Temple period (6th
century BC - 70 AD). In Hasidæan circles the
invocation 'Our Father who art in heaven' was
and principal part of the 'Our Father' is a prayer
for the coming of the 'kingdom of God', exactly
as in the Kaddish. In contrast, the primitive
Christian community expressed 'eschatological' hope
for the return of its hero – NOT the advent of
the 'kingdom.' The 'Our Father' expresses nothing of
the Christian belief that the Messiah had arrived in
the person of Jesus.
us our daily bread" is taken from Proverbs (30.8) composed
between the 6th - 3rd century BC.
thy neighbour if he hath hurt thee: and then shall
thy sins be forgiven to thee" is taken
from Ecclesiasticus (28.2) a
2nd century BC production.
There is no
'Lord's Prayer' in Mark but 'Mark' (12.29-30)
has 'one of the scribes' ask JC 'which
is the 1st commandment?' and the godman gives
a very Jewish answer:
first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel;
The Lord our God is one Lord: (Mark 12 29)"
on this micro story, 'Luke' has JC responding
to one of his disciples.The fellow had caught
sight of Jesus praying (talking to himself if
we believe in the Trinity!). 'Teach us how to pray' he
asks. The response is the short version of the 'Lord's
Prayer' found in Luke.
Luke's prayer into the longer version known to all.
the godman's prayer was derived from older Jewish sources.The 'Our
Father' – far from being unique, original
or evidence of a godman – is nothing more than
a handful of recycled Jewish invocations, composed
into a pithy format.
despite the fact that the Lord's Prayer must be
a very early summary of themes and emphases from
Jesus' own lifetime, I do not think that such a
coordinated prayer was ever taught by him to his
Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p294.
'Jesus of Nazareth'
supposedly lived in what is the most well-documented period of
antiquity the first century of the Christian era yet
not a single non-Christian source mentions the miracle worker from
the sky. All references including
the notorious insertions in Josephus stem from partisan
Christian sources (and Josephus himself, much argued over, was
not even born until after the supposed crucifixion). The
horrendous truth is that the Christian Jesus was manufactured
from plundered sources, re-purposed for the needs of the early
It is not with a human being that the Jesus myth begins.
Christ is not a deified man but a humanised god who happened to
be given the name Yeshu.
Those real Jesuses, those that lived and died within normal human parameters,
may have left stories and legends behind, later cannibalised by Christian
scribes as source material for their own hero, but it is not with any
flesh and blood rebel/rabbi/wonder-worker that the story begins. Rather,
its genesis is in theology itself.
in the Garden of Gethsemane?
it unreasonable to ask just
who recorded not only
one of the last prayers of the godman but also the last occasion
when the "living" superhero was with his acolytes? The
only possible witnesses were asleep.
'And he said, "Abba,
Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this
cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith
unto Peter, "Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?
Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The
spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak."
And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
And when he returned, he found them asleep again,
(for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, "Sleep
on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come;
behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."
– Mark 14.36,41
(Matthew's version is almost identical, Luke
has a shortened
version and John omits the scene entirely.)
But of course
as sacred theatre – a fabula praetexta – such
paramulations back and forth and rhetorical declamations to
an audience are precisely what we would expect.
of the 'Passion' make no sense historically.
A trial for Jesus, when suspected rebels were habitually arrested
and executed by the Romans without trial? Philo of Alexandria
(On the embassy to Gaius, XXXVIII) speaks of Pilate's 'continual
murders of people untried and uncondemned.'
And why would
the Romans have allowed a convicted felon to be almost
immediately removed from his cross and put in a tomb?
Crucifixion was chosen precisely to make a public point
that the most cruel and humiliating form of punishment awaits
those who oppose Rome's will. Roman disposition on this point
was perhaps best summed up by Quintilian (AD 35-95, Decl. 274)
when he wrote that:
we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen,
where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For
penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their
A century earlier,
after the 'slave revolt' led by Spartacus, 6,000 prisoners were
thus crucified along the Via Appia between the cities
of Rome and Cappua, as a gruesome deterrent to further rebellion.
Doubtless the corpses were left on their crosses to rot or to
provide food for wild beasts and birds of prey.
course if the 'Passion' were really a pageant of a re-born
sun-god it makes perfect sense that the 'sacrificed' actor
be taken off-stage, subsequently reappearing in a later act,
Did They Get Their Ideas From?
Asclepius. Believed by the Greeks to have once lived as a man and raised to a god after death. He was fathered by a god – Apollo – but with a human mother (Coronis, a beautiful maiden of Thessaly). He was raised by the centaur Chiron in a cave and from him learned the art of healing. But Asclepius committed the unpardonable sin of raising a man from the dead, enraging Hades for cheating him of dead souls. Zeus, afraid that Asclepius might render all men immortal, slew him with a thunderbolt. Apollo interceded on behalf of his son and persuaded Zeus to make Asclepius the god of medicine. As an immortal, Asclepius was able to cure the sick from the realm of the gods.
Certainly, for centuries, sick people went to the temples dedicated to Asclepius hoping for a cure. It was said that those who came to Asclepius on crutches went away dancing happily. Famous temples of the god were at Pergamum, Epidaurus, Cos and Rome. Full participation in the healing program involved sleeping inside the temple compound – in effect, the first hospitals – where 'holistic' treatment involved massage, baths and dream interpretation. Fortunate individuals did indeed experience a "healing miracle" and gave testimony to the cure effected by this Greek god.
The early Christians attacked the cult of Asclepius with great venom, indicating a close rivalry between the two cults and a certain embarrassment among Christians repeatedly being told that Asclepius had already done all of Jesus' tricks – and had done them better.
PS: High Priest John kills his brother "Jesus" in the Temple!
Yet another Jesus was slain – in the holy temple no less – during the reign of Artaxerxes I of Persia (circa 465-424 BC). His brother John, the High Priest, did the dirty deed. Writes Josephus:
"When Eliashib the High Priest was dead, his son Judas succeeded in the high priesthood; and when he was dead, his son John took that dignity ...
Now Jesus was the brother of John, and was a friend of Bagoses, who had promised to procure him the High Priesthood. In confidence of whose support, Jesus quarreled with John in the Temple, and so provoked his brother, that in his anger his brother slew him.
Now it was a horrible thing for John, when he was High Priest, to perpetrate so great a crime, and so much the more horrible, that there never was so cruel and impious a thing done, neither by the Greeks nor Barbarians.
However, God did not neglect its punishment, but the people were on that very account enslaved, and the Temple was polluted by the Persians. ... Accordingly, Bagoses made use of this pretense, and punished the Jews seven years for the murder of Jesus."
– Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - 11.7.
Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Phoenix Grant,
John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Doubleday, 1991)
Josephus, The Jewish War (Penguin, 1959)
Leslie Houlden (Ed.), Judaism & Christianity (Routledge, 1988)
Riane Eisler, The Chalice & the Blade (Harper Collins, 1987)
Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus (Allen Lane, 2000)
A. N. Wilson, Jesus (Harper Collins, 1993)
Ian Wilson, Jesus: the Evidence (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1984)
Alvar Ellegard, Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ (Century,
Johannes Lehmann, The Jesus Report (Souvenir Press, 1972)
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Copyright © 2004
by Kenneth Humphreys.
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