23 January 2013

The Communal Crucifixion of Jesus

My proposal is that multiple details about the death of Jesus were deliberately created but not just at random as mere narrative fill-up. They were created to describe Jesus' death amid a tissue of resonances and a volley of echoes from the biblical past.

By John Dominic Crossan
The Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman historian Tacitus, and the Christian Apostles' Creed have very little in common. Except for this one thing: that, respectively, Jesus "had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus"; that "Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified"; and that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate [and] was crucified."
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea and, appointed by the emperor Tiberius, he ruled from 26 to 36 C.E. He and the Jewish high priest Caiaphas collaborated not wisely but too well and they were both eventually removed from office by their Roman masters. Jesus' execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? Are they fact or fiction and, if fiction, what is their purpose, intention, meaning
Think about these examples and, in every case, notice how each one creates an echo or resonance with earlier biblical tradition. The most striking one is the death-cry of Jesus, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" in Mark 15:34 that recalls the opening verse, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" of Psalm 22:1. That recall is left implicit and, if you miss it, you miss it. It is neither proof nor argument but an invitation to thought and a lure for meditation.
Jesus' death-cry as psalm-echo draws attention to further echoes between details of the crucifixion and verses of that same Psalm 22. Here are three examples from Mark, the earliest of the four gospels. Notice that they are all implicit -- if you miss them, you miss them. They are there -- but quietly, like choral music in the background -- for those with ears to hear and hearts to understand.
A first example is the fate of Jesus' clothes. "They crucified him," says Mark 15:24, "and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take." That echoes the verse, "they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots" from Psalm 22:18.
A second example is that, alongside Jesus, "they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left" in Mark 15:27. That echoes the psalm's lament that "a company of evildoers encircles me" in Psalm 22:16b.
A third example is these mocking challenges directed at Jesus: "Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying ... 'Save yourself, and come down from the cross!' ... 'He saved others; he cannot save himself.’... 'Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe'" in Mark 15:29-32. In the background, hear once again, this taunt: "All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 'Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver -- let him rescue the one in whom he delights!'" from Psalm 22:7-8. But, once again, the echo is only implicit -- if you miss it, you miss it.
Furthermore, apart from that Psalm 22, there is a clear (but, once again, implicit) allusion to another psalm during the crucifixion of Jesus. Unlike those preceding examples, all four evangelists contain this striking -- and doubled -- reference. Here is an example from Matthew's gospel: "They offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it ... At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink" (27:34,48) That reminds one of this half-verse, "for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" from Psalm 69:21b.
Those are only a few examples but, from start to finish, in larger and smaller chunks of text, the last hours of Jesus resonate repeatedly with prayers and stories from the biblical tradition that preceded them. How is that "coincidence" to be explained?
My proposal is that multiple details about the death of Jesus were deliberately created but not just at random as mere narrative fill-up. They were created to describe Jesus' death amid a tissue of resonances and a volley of echoes from the biblical past. Further, it is especially from the biblical psalms of lament, from the prayers of the just and righteous suffering injustice and oppression, that those details have been taken. In other words, the evangelists have created communal and corporate rather than just individual and private sufferings for Jesus. Starting from the historical basis of imperial indicting, flogging, and crucifixion, those manifold details -- for example, the death-cry, the divided garments, the mockery, and the bitter drink -- were invented and added within the ongoing tradition about Jesus. But why?
Because of this. Jesus was not the first faithful Jew who died on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem -- nor would he be the last. In 4 B.C.E., Varus crucified two thousand Jews there, and in 70 C.E. Titus crucified five hundred a day -- for how many days? Those first followers of Jesus were Christian Jews," that is "Messianic Jews." They believed that Jesus was their awaited Messiah, their expected Christ. They did not think that Jesus' was just another Roman execution. But neither did they think that he died alone.
He died, for them, as the climax of all the suffering of Israel, as the consummation of all those prayers of lament in the psalms, as the fulfilment of all the faithful martyrs of the biblical tradition. The details of Jesus' death were not fact remembered and history recorded. They were prayer recollected and psalm historicized. But, then, if the suffering of others was imbedded in the crucifixion of Jesus, must not those others have been vindicated by God in his resurrection. if Jesus' death was a communal crucifixion, must there not have been also a communal resurrection?

John Dominic Crossan is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University

22 January 2013

Jesus never said in the Gospels: “I was dead and now I am alive!”

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD
A comment by a devoted Christian in the Muslim Times gave me the title of my article or column for today.
I have known it before as well that Jesus never said in the Gospels: “I was dead and now I am alive!”
However, today, I took on a careful reading of all the canonical Gospels from where he is put on the cross to the ending of each Gospel.  It is called Horizontal Reading of Gospels.  So, I read the account horizontally with a special purpose in mind. Did Jesus describe his death and his resurrection, in so many words?
What is Horizontal Reading and what do we learn by this simple tool, about this issue, at hand? We will also consider if the followers of Jesus, have been putting words in his mouth?
Horizontal Reading is a method of textual analysis used to compare multiple accounts of a similar event – such as the two creation stories found in Genesis, or the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. This cross-referencing is useful for finding Biblical contradictions.
Another example of horizontal reading would be the practice of reading various newspaper accounts of a single incident. Given a story of a banking scandal, The Economist may attribute the incident to lax regulation, while The Sun, a newspaper so low-brow it’s practically a beard, would be more likely to blame “fat cats” and immigrants.
The primary advantage of horizontal reading is that it allows a comparison between multiple accounts of an event. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and author of several books examining the history of Christianity and the Biblical Canon, advocates horizontal reading in his book Jesus, Interrupted.[1] He advises readers to read a gospel account, taking notes while doing so, and then repeat the process for the account of the same event found in another gospel. This leads readers to find hitherto unnoticed discrepancies and contradictions.
Prof. Bart Ehrman describes horizontal reading of the Gospels in this short video clip:
So, I went to Bible Gateway and read the New International Version, as I find that most readable.  Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was the first to be written, some 30 years after crucifixion and so I started reading that first.  I did not find any mention of Jesus saying, “I was dead and now I am alive!”

Jesus ‘Used to Be Jewish’? That’s Not What the Gospels Say

“And remember when Jesus, son of Mary, said, ‘O children of Israel, surely I am Allah’s Messenger unto you, fulfilling that which is before me of the Torah, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger who will come after me. His name will be Ahmad.’ And when he came to them with clear proofs, they said, ‘This is clear enchantment.’’     (Al Quran 61:7)

Temple Mount Jerusalem.
Temple Mount Jerusalem.
         Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Romans in 60-70 AD

By: Bernard Starr (Psychologist/journalist/college professor)

When I interviewed Christians and Jews for my book "Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew," I heard over and over "everyone knows Jesus was Jewish." But when I dug a little deeper I discovered that "everyone knows he was Jewish" really means "he used to be Jewish." Then I found that many still believe that Jesus was born Christian and that he launched a new religion.

For example, Jane, educated in Catholic grade schools, agreed that Jesus was Jewish. But when I followed up with, "Did he remain Jewish throughout his life?" she said, "Oh, no. He became a Christian and started Christianity." "When did that happen?" I asked. "When he was baptized by John the Baptist," she answered confidently. "It says so right in the Bible."
Noah, a young Jewish college student, who attends a small New England college, asked his Christian fraternity brothers, "What was Jesus' religion?" They stared at him as if he were an idiot. He pressed for an answer. Unanimously they declared, "Christian, of course."

The fact is, Jesus was born into a family of practicing Jews dedicated to Judaism. As prescribed in the Torah, he was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. Throughout his life he was thoroughly committed to Judaism, the Torah and Jewish practices. He prayed in synagogues and taught Torah to "multitudes" of fellow Jews. And John the Baptist only baptized Jews to purify them for the expected arrival of the Jewish Messiah. All this is stated clearly in the Gospels; Jane's quote is not.
Christians are astonished when I inform them that the word "Jew" appears 202 times in the New Testament and 82 times in the Gospels, while "Christian" does not show up at all in the Gospels and is mentioned only three times in later parts of the New Testament -- the first mention is when Paul is preaching in Antioch years after the crucifixion (Acts 11:26). Why is "Christian" absent from the Gospels, which span Jesus' life and ministry? Because there was no Christianity during Jesus' life.
With the goal of healing antagonisms and closing the longstanding divide between Christianity and Judaism, I set out to restore the Jewish foundation of Christianity -- a foundation that Christianity stands on. In this quest I explore issues that have been overlooked or minimized, issues that were major factors in severing ties between Christianity and Judaism and that blurred their common heritage.
As I continued to struggle with the puzzling question of how Christianity lost touch with Judaism, I discovered a Church policy spanning centuries that may have been one of the most potent underpinnings of the historic Christian-Jewish divide: the Church's ban on Christians owning a Bible, reading a Bible or translating their Bible into native languages -- edicts that persisted until the 16th century, and even beyond. Christians, therefore, only knew what they were told by Church officials -- and what they were told was stripped of Jesus' Jewish identity. And, of course, the coup de grace: The teaching that the Jews killed Jesus.
Then when I stumbled on several Medieval and Renaissance paintings of Jesus, his family and disciples, I was struck by their misrepresentations, distortions and anachronisms. This prompted me to examine hundreds of other classic paintings. I even took a walking tour of the Renaissance galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. To my astonishment, Jesus, his followers and his Jewish community were consistently pictured as blond, fair-skinned, northern European latter-day Christians, often surrounded by latter-day saints, Christian clergy and Christian artifacts -- images totally at odds with biblical facts and without a trace of any Jewish connections. I concluded that these distortions of "omission" established a powerful platform for anti-Semitism that continues to reverberate today. The artworks set the "Christian" Jesus apart from "the Jews," when, in fact they were all part on the same Semitic tribe of dedicated Jews.
I then turned my attention to the crucial question, "Did the Jews kill Jesus?" -- a charge that has echoed with deadly consequences since the crucifixion. Taking a fresh look at the Gospels' account of Jesus' arrest, trial and the events leading up to them, I concluded that the narratives make no sense whatsoever, scripts that wouldn't pass muster for an episode of "Law and Order." Moreover, the Gospels state explicitly who killed Jesus, a finding that will surely provoke controversy and heated debate. It's puzzling that the true perpetrator has been overlooked or underplayed. 

Have you ever wondered what Jesus might say about virulent and enduring anti-Semitism? Indeed, what would the thoroughly Jewish Jesus have said to church leaders, monarchs and others who launched murderous acts such as the Crusades, the Inquisition and genocides in his name? I tackle this question in a mock trial, in which Jesus asks these perpetrators, "How do you justify your violent acts based on my teachings and mission?" 

Christians today, especially evangelicals, are eager to let go of long-standing antagonisms and are reaching out to Jews in a spirit of reconciliation. But memories of unspeakable persecution over many centuries are a barrier for Jews to participate fully in the healing process. Given this new environment, I appeal to my fellow Jews to drop the "Jesus Phobia" and accept Jesus as a faithful Jew -- without having to embrace the claim that he was the Messiah. To encourage this I point to the pantheon of false Jewish Messiahs throughout history, many of whom were destructive to Judaism, but are still revered for their teachings, while Jesus is rejected. 

Finally, I could not resist commenting on Dan Brown's popular novel "The Da Vinci Code," which, like classical artworks, begins with a Jewish story but promptly converts it into a Christian one. I show how "The Da Vinci Code" gets recoded when Rabbi Jesus' wife and daughter are authentically recast. 

In exploring these issues and the realities of Jesus' life, I strive to shed new light on the history of anti-Semitism and on the destructive forces that have alienated Christians and Jews. My aim is to help heal the rift between the religions and galvanize the reconciliation process.

Bernard Star is author of 'Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew' that is available at Amazon.com for Kindle and at Smashwords for all other e-book formats.

11 January 2013

The Crucifixion Was A Fraud

Billions of Christians believe Christ was crucified, buried, and then rose again.

This is the basis for Christian faith. What if Jesus survived the crucifixion? Would this be pure blasphemy or is there reason behind this assumption? There is evidence in the gospels themselves that say Christ may have survived the crucifixion and that the crucifixion to put it bluntly was a "fraud." 
Writer and researcher Michael Baigent, author of Holy Blood-Holy Grail, and other scholars believe that the gospels are suspect to the theory of the survival of Christ. He says his theories are not intended to offend, but one must keep a clear distinction between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of theology even though the Jesus of theology is based on the historical Jesus.

One can only find the figure of the Jesus of history by teasing out of various historical documents, some which are the New Testament.

In the theory of the survival of Jesus, there are a number of clues which help support it, but there are two major clues that are the strongest.
  • The first is in the crucifixion itself. When a person was crucified they did not die quickly, but rather a slow painful, morbid death which would have taken two to three days, possibly even a week. Jesus supposedly died within two to three hours.

    Joseph of Arimethea went to Pilot and asked to have the body of Jesus, which was contrary to Roman law anyway, and when Pilot heard that Jesus was already dead, he was so surprised to hear that Jesus had died so quickly that he sent a centurion to check.

  • The second oddity is that the crucifixion took place in what seemed to be a private garden and tomb owned by Joseph of Arimethea. The importance of this observation is that if there was any fraudulence associated with the crucifixion, then the public could be kept away in a private garden and Jesus could be privately taken away, revived, tendered and ministered to.
If Jesus did not die on the cross he would have been forced to flee the Holy Land.

If authorities discovered Jesus was still alive, he would have been punished again. So where would he have gone? There is a story of Christ's life after the crucifixion.

That the blood relatives of Jesus may still live among us!

Rennes le Château is at the foot of the Peraniese Mountains in the South of France. This small town is at the center of a religious and historical cyclone. The story begins with a young Parish priest by the name of Bérenger Saunière.

Bérenger Saunière was first assigned to Rennes le Château in 1885 at the age of 33. He started renovations of the church and found a suspicious hallow piece in the altar when taking it apart. Within the hallow piece he found four parchments, which started the mystery.

Two of the parchments were written in code which he could not decipher.

Saunière took the parchments to Paris to seek help from experts in military code and ciphers. It is believed that he found the key to unlocking the mystery of the documents. It is also believed that someone gave Saunière money to find out what information was obtained in the parchments or perhaps to keep the secrets of Rennes le Château from becoming public.

When Bérenger Saunière went home he started a full renovation of the church. He found new details within the church's artwork that he thought to be clues to the information contained in the parchments. 
Is it possible that the coded documents revealed to Bérenger Saunière that Christ had 
survived the crucifixion? In a depiction of stage fourteen of the cross (click image right), which is normally the body of Christ being carried to the tomb, Saunière showed the moon as already risen, thus Passover had already begun.

No Jew would handle a dead body after the beginning of Passover.

Either Saunière was showing that:
  1. The body is not dead
  2. They were taking the body out of the tomb and not in
After renovating the church, Saunière still had some money left over, so he continued in Rennes le Château and built a house, garden, and a tower which he named after Mary Magdala(Magdalene).

The figure of Mary Magdala may prove key to historical legends that Mary Magdala traveled to the South of France, in addition some scholars believe she may have been the wife of Jesus.

A number of documents spoke of relationships between Mary Magdala and Jesus which could only be described as close. For example, it was witnessed that Jesus kissed her often on the lips to the point where the other disciples complained, perhaps they felt jealous. Jesus was a religious teacher. It was very unusual for a Jewish religious teacher to be unmarried, in fact a commandment of God was to be fruitful and multiply.

The question arose, what could possibly be so important about this relationship that would cause such a mystery?

Michael Baigent believes two stories converge here.
Could the Holy Grail, the illusive treasure of legend and myth be the key to unlocking this mystery? It would seem unrelated to Jesus and Mary but may be the most important clue of all. The Holy Grail was thought of as the chalice Christ drank from at the Last Supper, and which may of held his blood after the crucifixion.

Could the Holy Grail have another meaning? A meaning hidden in the French words for Holy Grail:
SAN GREAL = Holy Grail, if broken differently to

SANG REAL = Blood Royal, the royal blood line
During research historical proof was found that the line of David, Jesus' blood line, existed in Europe during Medieval Times.

According to Bérenger Saunière when the knight finds the Grail, he does not find the golden chalice, but proof that Jesus survived the crucifixion.

In 1917 when Saunière was dying, he called for a priest to hear his confessions. When the priest did, he fled from the room in shock, never smiling again. Perhaps Saunière imparted in him a secret, a secret that has been suppressed for 2,000 years.

A secret that Jesus had survived the crucifixion. A secret that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdala, a relationship which produced children. And that these children made their way to France, where the bloodline of Christ, the bloodline of the royal line of David, continued and in fact continues today.

Your looking at the difference between the Jesus of theology and the Jesus of history.

The Jesus of theology is a God, the Jesus of history is a man like all other men.
"We are trying to regain the Jesus of history, to find Jesus the man who walked, loved, and taught in Judah in the 1st Century A.D."

6 January 2013

The Lost Gospels – BBC Documentary


Epigraph: “And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, fulfilling that which was revealed before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel which contained guidance and light, fulfilling that which was revealed before it in the Torah, and a guidance and an admonition for the God-fearing.” (Al Quran 5:47)

The New Testament consists of 27 books, 13 of which are letters by St. Paul. The Holy Quran, recognizes in principle, the revelations given to Jesus, may peace be on him, but, makes no mention of St. Paul or his letters.
The letters of St. Paul according to the Holy Quran, do not belong in Scriptures, as these are not endorsed at all by revelations to the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, may peace be on him.

30 Verses from Holy Quran that proves the death of Isa (as)

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