In our local community building, come summer holidays, they hold bible classes for children - preaching of miracles and a biblical take on morality. Depending on their version of religion, they will hear about a particular saviour - usually described as the 'Son of God'.
It is common for those great enlightened souls, who incarnate periodically, to be the receptacle of man-kinds myths and miracles: Horus of Egypt, Krishna of India, Mithra of Persia, Jesus of Nazareth. Typically they are born late December, of a virgin mother, are prodigals who teach others, have disciples, perform miracles and are resurrected.
Thus, depending where on earth the children are, they will inherit the same story, only the names will have been changed.
I grew up with the Christian version, as articulated in the King James Bible - but, many years ago, I came across a different version. An arcane history:
It was a story that described Britain two thousand years ago as part of a global trading network. For hundreds of years before Christ, British tin had been important to the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians and then the Romans had been conduits for it's trade, taking it to the four corners of the earth.
One of the wealthiest men in those far-off days was named Joseph of Arimathea. While his home was just outside Jerusalem (today called Ramallah) he travelled and traded the world. Well known in Britain, his niece, of good British stock, was called Mary.
When Mary, still unmarried, found herself to be pregnant it was a shameful thing. As is still the practice today with the upper classes, she was shipped off abroad to have the baby. No doubt Joseph's connections were why she ended up in Nazareth, with a marriage of convenience to a local man, also named Joseph. When baby Jesus was born, his red hair was a clue to his British descent.
Mary's husband Joseph died when Jesus was still a child, and Joseph of Arimathea became his guardian. Under his tutelage Jesus was protected and well educated. Although, as he developed his spiritual path, he renounced worldly wealth, his childhood would have been well provided for. There are many traditions of Jesus in Britain, being educated in Greece and travelling to India for his spiritual training with the Nath Yogis (who referred to him as Isahinath). (The Indian connection probably accounts for the departure of St Thomas to India soon after the crucifixion - where he taught and ministered until his death.)
When society becomes corrupt and set in unrighteous ways, the presence of such an enlightened, committed iconoclast as Jesus is disruptive. Jesus' mission was to put an end to the idea that we need a messiah to liberate us. His message: 'what I do, you can do' 'love the lord thy god' 'love thy neighbour as thy self'; was simple but it powerfully challenged social and religious norms.
So they crucified him.
Joseph of Arimathea had the power and influence to get him off the cross before he died. He also arranged the safe transfer of Jesus, his wife Mary and several others to France. No doubt Jesus would have kept a low profile and, not wishing for a repeat of the punishment, sought a period of quiet and reflection.
His apostles would have been both terrified and devastated. Terrified that they might be next and devastated at the departure of their beloved master. Meanwhile Jesus had nominated his brother James the Just as their leader.
James provided thirty years of stability to the 'Nazarenes' the Jewish followers of Jesus who lived around Jerusalem. As recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls, he sought to emphasis the teaching of love and care for the poor as espoused by Jesus, and to maintain adherence to the Jewish traditions of Moses and Abraham.
Not so Paul (Saul as was), who had never met Jesus but, like a modern-day TV evangelist, had created a large following among wealthy middle-class Gentiles outside of Palestine. The Apostles did not trust or like Paul, however his rich client base provided badly-needed funds for the much poorer, stricter Jerusalem Jews who followed James and the words of Jesus.
James promoted a strict adherence to the traditions of Judaism and the simplistic, loving message of Jesus. Paul did not. Persuading his congregation to adopt the ritual purification of food and become circumcised, as was required by James, was out of the question. So, twenty years after the crucifixion, Paul invented a new religion: 'Christianity'!!
His message was simple: "... you do not need to obey all the rules and laws of the Jews - they were only relevant before the arrival of Jesus Christ. Now, you can achieve salvation simply by believing in Christ, who is the son of God". This was a clever message, because it allowed Paul, who had never met Jesus, to claim that by his belief in Jesus he was saved and thus on the same level as the other apostles.
The idea of Christ as God, who died for our sins, was the path to our salvation and should be the target of our prayers, was all Paul's invention. With the exception of the James letter, the books of the New Testament were either written by Paul, or by his followers. The authors of the Mark, Matthew, Luke and John Gospels, like Paul, had never met Jesus. They only knew of him through Paul's teaching.
While the Dead Sea Scrolls (written contemporaneously with these events) referred to James as the 'Bishop of Jerusalem', they referred to Paul as an apostate, the 'Wicked Bishop', and used the passover to curse him. Ultimately the descendents of James and the other apostles, who did know Jesus and his message, were attacked and excommunicated by the followers of the nascent Christian Church, who did not.
Such irony. The very people who knew and loved Jesus attacked by a church built in his name. Their major crime was that they, friends and associates of Jesus, did not see him as God but as human, and thus with traits attainable by all of us. We do not need Church or State - the Kingdom of Heaven is within - God is approachable by each one of us: who would be threatened by that?
Posted by Nicholas Moore 7:22 pm