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Jesus: Pacifist Shepherd, or Zealot Warrior?

With the release of The DaVinci Code, along with its hype, debate from both sides, and a massive media campaign, this may be the time to more closely examine evidence of the allegations made not only in The DaVinci Code, but also in other lesser-known scholarly works that do give historical evidence for hidden codes, a conspiracy, murder, mayhem, and –- Heaven forbid — the idea that Jesus was married and produced children.

For the opening of the door to the widespread knowledge of these revelations, we should thank Dan Brown. His novel hinted at the controversy, but he wisely obscured the details by addressing the issues as a modern-day detective story, leaving the truly devastating and incriminating information for others to reveal. Now, the information is about to cascade over Christendom like the flood waters of the Deluge. While it is not possible to cite all the research here, some links and books have been provided where the readers can begin their own investigation.

From Professor Robert Eisenman’s fabulous works including James the Brother of Jesus, to Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah, from the insights gained from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels, continuing on to textual criticism (John Dominic Crossan’s Who Killed Jesus) and military analysis of ancient manuscripts (Josephus), we dare not ignore the impact of this long-suppressed information. While many of the leaders of the “faithful” will understandably attack these works, we must require that they not respond to our questions by demanding that we submit to mere blind obedience so that they can save our souls. The evidence is now surfacing that they may actually be the ones who have been keeping our souls in prison all along by silencing honest inquiry and denouncing such inquiry as if it is something for which we should be ashamed.

The study of history should provide us with lessons that teach us how to avoid the same mistakes. But, often, history is biased and the truth hidden either just below the surface or in other places altogether. In the subject at hand, it is helpful to look at the circumstances history tells us of the period, and not just the official versions, but also the new evidence slowly emerging. Again, the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Codices, and other works by recent scholarship point in a direction that is substantial, if not conclusive. In this effort, the researchers must try to ignore the trend of the last to two millennia of basing history, and its interpretation, on religious belief and faith without losing sight of how that faith influenced history subsequent to the events we are examining.

In this study, we find ourselves asking the first question. How does an empire take over a fiercely independent and religiously devout people? The answer is manipulation over time of their most basic beliefs, and the control of their government and destiny. In other words, by redefining what and who they are, and where they are going, using force if necessary, a people will ultimately surrender.

Circa First Century CE (Common Era, otherwise known as A.D.) just such an operation was underway in Palestine to subjugate the Jews and their control over the valuable trade routes to Asia and Egypt. The Roman Empire occupied Palestine, especially Judea and Galilee, extending its power for what it deemed the defense and national security of the Roman people. Of course, it also involved the plunder of the occupied lands to stoke Caesar's treasury.

The Jews fought back.  "This is proof that the Uprising against Rome, aside from being popular-which it was most definitely-was also Messianic," wrote Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, p.45.

About Roy

  • http://the-walrus-said.blogspot.com Walrus

    Ah, just what the world needs. Yet another conspiracy theory.

    I find it quite revealing that you publish your “findings” in novel form. Creativity and imagination are essential for novelists but tend to be under-appreciated among serious historical researchers, whose job is not to invent history but to elucidate it.

    May I ask what qualifications you have to rewrite history? To the best of my knowledge, training for military and police officers does not include how to evaluate ancient documents.

  • nugget

    hahah! slice*

  • http://None Bellona

    I am a Pagan and I find this look at Christianity absolutely fascinating. Why? I have never looked at that faith from this point of view. Given human nature and the politics of power I find this could indeed been what happened.

  • http://www.goddesswithin.us/ Arius

    Ok for those of you who haven’t studied the rise of Xtianity, here’s a brief rundown of how it all happened.

    1) Joshua ben Joseph (Jesus, Greek name) is born to noble parents, no godlike intervention, and wow there were actually 2 of them, twins. Thomas (Greek for twin) was his younger brother by a few minutes.

    2) Ok so they leave Israel for Egypt because Herod gets wind that male babies are born that have the blood of David in them by two descending lines. These boys have been anointed and can claim the throne. Around their 12th year they move back to Israel.

    3) Time goes by, Jesus is married to Mary Magdalen in or around his 15th or 16th year which was common back then. They have their first child, who will later be called Barrabas or bar Rabbi, “son of the Rabbi”.

    4) Learning about Eastern religious thought from Buddhist missionaries, Jesus travels to India and studies throughout that land. Tibetian Buddhists have records of him in their “Book of the Dead”.

    (Note: Betcha always wondered why there was 20 years missing in his life? The Roman Church didn’t think these years fit in with the myth they created.)

    5) Jesus comes back to Israel some years later and starts up his cult. His brother and son are already fighting a guerilla war against the Romans and the corrupt Jewish priesthood, in an attempt to take back the throne from Herod.

    6) Ok, trial and execution time. Jesus may or may not have died on the cross at this point. What is known is that Joseph of Arimathea owned the land that the Cruci-fiction happened on. If he didn’t die then he did flee back to India, as Indian legend tells.

    7) Mary Magdalen and Thomas fight Peter for control of the movement. Peter wins out and Mary flees with her daughter Sara to southern France with Joseph of Arimathea .

    8) Under Peter’s control the movement starts to die until a former enemy, Saul of Tarsus, converts, becoming Paul, and the two take their road show to Rome. During this time the tales of Jesus take on more mystical aspects instead of plain revolutionary ideology.

    9) Over the next 300+ years the battle over what really happened continued. Gnostics and Traditionalists fight over the message of Jesus and his divinity. Finally in a bid to consolidate his power over the remnants of the Roman Empire, Constantine (a Pagan) makes Christianity the official religion of the state. The hunt and war against Gnostics begins.

    10) 1700+ years of lies, conquests, and burnings later and still it continues. Jesus was a good man, he was a teacher, a Rabbi, but he was as divine as any of us are. His brother and son were the revolutionaries, trying to win back the land of Israel from Rome and the corrupt Jewish priesthood, along with the Maccabean dynasty of Herod, who supported Rome.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I was with you till the last sentence. Not because I know any better but because it is a lot more interesting than what the “Christians” have been pushing for 2,000 years. Why should one more Jew dying on a cross be any different from the thousands of others the Roman savages had put to death in their little protectorate of Judea.

    Herod was an Idumaian prince (as in Edom), chosen by Rome because the successors of the Maccabees could not agree on a king. Aside from replacing them, and probably killing them all off, Herod had nothing to do with the Maccabees. Herod hated Jews – who had forced his father and his people to convert to Judaism. He was the perfect choice for the Romans.

  • Nancy

    I never did buy that Yeshua was single without being a member of a sect such as the Essenes. In them there days, celibacy was NOT considered a virtue, and virtually everybody got married fairly young (by our standards). NOT to be married would be a considerable aberration with that culture, and not regarded as a good one; indeed, he’d have been severely criticized for failing his duty to his family by not marrying & having kids to carry on the name(s) of his ancestors. IMO it’s far more likely he was indeed married.

    The speculation of the identity of Barrabas is interesting; never thought of that one, even with the translation staring me in the face. The Roman conspiracy is strengthened, moreover, by the fact that very shortly after the death of his brother James, the entire Christian heirarchy/structure got moved to Rome itself – a handy place to keep an eye on the movement, indeed.

    I’ve always considered Paul to be one of the biggest traducers of Yeshua’s actual teachings. If you read JC’s quotes thru out the NT, and then read Paul, Paul actually is teaching/preaching the exact opposite from what JC taught, which in fact is precisely the basis for Peter’s extensive squabble & power struggle with him. Extremely interesting if one considers him to be a Roman ‘plant’ with precisely the goal in mind of removing the actual, original teachings.

  • Anne

    Thanks to Blogcritics for providing this vehicle to air ideas such as yours! You have put into a succint, inderstandable timeline the events which took place leading us to what we today call Christianity. If even most of what you say is true, this information, finally exposed to the light of day, could rock the Christian world forever. I can hardly wait to get your book, as well as the others you list here. Thank you for your courage. No doubt you will not shrink under the firestorm your ideas will bring you. Good Luck!

  • http://www.communistvampires.com/author.htm Thomas M. Sipos

    Ruvy: “Herod hated Jews – who had forced his father and his people to convert to Judaism.”

    Huh? All my life, I’ve heard Jews say that Judaism, unlike other religions, does not seek converts. It even dissuades them. That if someone wants to convert, the rabbi actually tries to talk them out of it.

    As for why the Romans crucified Christ, is it not true that the Jewish priests regarded Jesus as a blasphemer (claiming to be the Son of God, eating on the Sabbath, etc.) and that had Israel not been under Roman occupation, the Jewish priests would have sentenced Jesus to death by stoning? They only went to the Romans because, under Roman law, capital punishment required Roman approval. (That, incidentally, is what I was taught in Catholic school.)

  • http://www.gnostics.com Gnostic Communications

    We invite readers to visit our review of Royston Potters book THE CRIMSON THREAD at http://www.gnostics.com/thread.html

  • Roy Potter

    Mr. Sipos:
    I feel constrained to allow this site to go on without my comments, but yours seemed particularly urgent. So, if I may?
    The Herodian family was forced to convert to Judaism, or die, under the Jewish Maccabean King John Hyrcanus. Yes, today’s Jews are careful about conversions, but this was a terrible act of force against the Idumeans that came back with a vengeance against the Jews. Force, under any situation, is wrong. The Jews paid for their error millions of lives over.
    As far as Jesus being a blasphemer, no not likely. The idea of being a “Son of God” was not all that improper, even Adam was called such. Even the accusations of Sabbath breaking, et. al are weak. In fact, the Jews had full authority to execute Jesus for blasphemy if Jesus had indeed done so, even under Roman Law. By the way, blaspheming means something very exact in Judaism, and that has to do with using THE NAME inappropriately. The fact is, the Romans killed Jesus, and the Jews had little, if nothing, to do with it.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Thank you, Mr. Potter, for putting meat on the skeletal bones of my historical understanding. Now I know which Maccabean king to blame for forcing the Idumaians to convert…

  • Jim K.

    The author has used fiction as a less confrontive way to approach the realities of Christian Formation. Too much is being discovered to continue the roman magical view of earliest Christianity. We now have history and fact, they disagree with the theological traditions.

  • Roy Potter

    I should also answer “Walrus” who was the first to post a comment on this article. His is a legitimate comment and question. First of all, “conspiracy theories” are extant in history, as traditional history is, in itself, such a phenomenon as any real history student understands. I published my research in novel form to change pace from the often dry scholarly works that are somewhat laborious to read. The same basic information in novel form is much more entertaining, and we still learn from it. Ever heard of “Discovery Channel,” “History Channel,” or other novels like mine under the “historical novel” category? Finally, my qualifications; If you knew anything about military training, especially the training officers obtain, and more particularly in the intelligence fields and at the field grade levels, you would appreciate my educated insight into what I have written. No, I am not a trained historian, but my military training is sufficient for much of what I have gleaned from my studies of the First Centurt conflicts (ever heard of Clausewitz or Jomini?), and my study of Hebrew and the early mystical systems certainly aided me in my further understanding of events. But, most importantly, I learned to study and to think for myself. I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

  • Walt

    A very good read; engaging from the first page. Much of the historical content I knew from reading some of the “dry” stuff but Mr. Potter explains some events from points of view that are uniquely refreshing-and make more sense than the common christian tales. All in all, a cohesive, consistent and far more believeable story than the mainstream has taught for over 1500 years IMHO.

  • Roy Potter

    A point of clarification, if I may. I do not believe the research by scholars indicates that the Gnostic writings, as a whole, were influenced by Rome (like the NT Gospels and Acts), as long as the writers did not follow Pauline concepts too far (paying taxes, honoring the authorities like Caesar, etc…). The Gnostics were, by and large, very independent, something which Rome did not approve. “Orthodox writers described the church in concrete terms because they accept the status quo…Gnostic Christians dissented.” wrote Elaine Pagels in THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS page 107. For the readers who do not know what “Q” is in regards to New Testament research, and how it influences what I have said here, we will discuss that in an upcoming article.

  • alethinos

    Jesus was NEITHER a pacifist or a warrior. He is a Manifestation of God. He was no more concerned with “toppling” the Roman Empire than we are over an ants nest. The Message he brought would, in time, completely undo the Roman Empire and He knew this. “Render unto Caesar…” (Matt22:21).

    It is amazing how, after 2000 years we STILL completely miss His Message and His Mission…

    We either make him out to be GOD which He isn’t and went to great pains to point out… Or we make Him out to be nothing more than a frustrated Jew of the time, a “good man” who wanted more…

    The Gnostics too were so often in the wrong. I’d say the ONLY two gnostic gospels that are worth reading at all are the Gospel of Thomas (often referred to as the 5th gospel) and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

    As for Paul… Well, he meant well didn’t he? Ya gotta give it to the guy… Hell, if I’d been struck dump and fell off my horse and saw Jesus standing over me saying, in essense, “Dude! What’s up! You’re harshin’ my gig here!” (from The Fast Bible Times, the Spicoli translation, pp. 27), well, I’d be shook up too…

    But MAN did he warp the Jesus’ Message! One way to tell? He mentions CHRIST well over 300 times. He mentions JESUS twice.

    Anyway, over all you present a number of scholarly views in an interesting format. Good job…

    alethinos

  • Roy Potter

    Alethinos:
    Just so you know, in my book, The Crimson Thread, the man we call Jesus is a mystic who progresses over time to greater understanding, but in the Jewish tradition and mindset of the First Century, keeping in mind the brutality of Rome that was always present. In other words, he didn’t figure it all out at once. The article I have written above to which you are responding is just the first of a series. We will get to what I think was Jesus’ spiritual orientation in a subsequent article. But, again, I mention the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Codices and the Dead Sea Scrolls in my article above not as examples of Roman influence, but as what did not contain Roman influences, for the most part. I view these works as a baseline, so to speak, to help us determine what was original Nazarite/Zealot thought as opposed to Pauline theology. Also, you may get a better insight as to where I am going with this if you look at my website at http://www.thecrimsonthreadthebook.com.

  • alethinos

    Roy… I appreciate your opinion. But I find it something of a rehash – I don’t mean that in a mean way. But what you’re stating above is simply what I had stated previously: there are a few set “ideas” of Jesus. Either He is God, or he’s this wonderful “mystic” who, as you put it, “…is a mystic who progresses over time to greater understanding.”

    Here’s a thought: Jesus IS a Manifestation of God. A Prophet. He is delivering a spiritual message, as all the Prophets do, suited to the Times and the Capacity of those to whom He walks among. Like any wise Teacher, He isn’t going to be teaching calculus to 3rd graders. “Let those who haves eyes SEE.”

    As usual though, men messed up the Message.

    What I was rather blithly trying to say is, INSTEAD of us trying to continually DEFINE and REDEFINE Jesus, how about we DEFINE mankind at the time and ask ourselves, HOW WOULD WE, in trying to impart the Message of Jesus, TEACH these people?

    He doesn’t HAVE to be God OR a “wise man”.

    alethinos

  • Baronius

    Who came up with the idea of a non-military messiah? It would have required a very subtle understanding of Judaism. Passages from Isaiah and the Psalms support the idea of a suffering messiah, but there certainly wasn’t agreement on that interpretation. The prevailing understanding was that the Messiah would be a conqueror, although there had been a few religious/political leaders in Israel’s history. The idea of a divine messiah wasn’t even on the radar.

    It also would have taken a mindset completely foreign to Rome. The Roman solution to a problem, any problem, was to kill it. Rome was everything. The gods of Rome would defeat all other gods through the hand of the army. The Empire wouldn’t bother devising a way of subverting a foe’s religion. They didn’t argue theology with Carthage.

    But even so, let’s say that Rome decided that the religion of these illiterate, unarmed non-citizens constituted an awesome threat to the Empire. They never would have come up with the idea of a pacifist messiah. Gods were about strength. Gods don’t die, they don’t die for sins, and they don’t die under Roman orders.

    Then, Rome would have had to introduce this religion into Jewish culture. How would that happen? A massive conspiracy, or support from among the Jewish people, or gullibility?

    Although this article claims to be a liberation of the mind from biases, it espouses ideas that a neutral party would never accept.

  • Roy Potter

    For Alethinos and Baronius:

    Both your comments are well-taken. These things are some of the topics we will discuss in detail with the series, and they are also shown in the sources I have cited. Quickly, I will mention the mystical Hechalot to Alethinos, and the development of rabinnic Judaism (for its own purposes,Rome encouraged Judaism to alter and having done so, allowed it to survive) to Baronius as examples of what happened and what we will be discussing. Rome killed (Jerusalem 70 AD and Masada about 73 AD), but she also manipulated for her own purposes. These processes Rome had used before, and many have used since. Josephus, a Maccabean priest turned Flavian Imperial family member, had the requisite understanding of Judaism to at least try and accomplish what we are discussing. From the looks of the end result of those years, I think he was at least somewhat successful. Also, as far as Jesus is concerned, here is a quote from the Introduction to my book: “This depiction of the man we know as Jesus does not diminish from his purpose or his contribution to the spiritual advancement of mankind. What it does do is de-Romanize the mission of Jesus, and returns his story to its Jewish origins.” The great Jewish mystical master Isaac Luria said Jesus was among the righteous. Let’s see where, how, and why. What’s important to realize, is that we will be seeing a picture quite different from that portrayed by traditional Christianity.

  • http://z zekiewos

    it’s something amasing. you’ve just tried to attract people by criticizing the one who has created you and gave you the power to criticize him;but I thing it’s good for you to consider that everything you say or do is clear to God.

  • http://www.churchhistory101.com Al Baker

    The World is NOT Black and White
    I do not have time to address every point of disagreement, but I must simply make a few points:
    1. Mr. Potter makes numerous points as if fact, but which have no solid historical documentation. For example, “…contrary to the extant versions of the story they allowed to survive, the historical Jesus was a political and military activist, and the Romans killed him for it.” While there is plenty of room to question the New Testament documents, there is no credible historical data to support this statement. One can refer to scholars like Elaine Pagels and John Crossan all day, but unless others like NT Wright are also consulted/cited, you fail to take into account a balanced presentation. “The Gnostic Gospels” was, in my opinion, the least scholarly work Pagels authored. In that text she bases many of her key arguments on unproven presupposition and, unfortunately, on emotion. While she has written some excellent scholarly pieces, this was not one of them.
    2. I find it interesting that Mr. Potter refers to NT writings as influenced by Rome. While he is correct that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts were not heavily influenced by the Roman culture I am curious to know what he means. I will try to visit to his site for more understanding.
    3. My apologies if I missed something on this page, but Jesus was not killed for being a military threat (with what army?), or for claiming to be Messiah (Mr. Potter was correct on this point), but for speaking against the Temple worship of his day. Because of the stir he was making, the Jewish leadership was concerned when he talked about the Temple not being important. He disturbed the economic flow that surrounded the Temple – he was threatening their livelihood.
    Even though it was a ridiculous notion, the Jewish leadership was afraid that he might muster enough following, especially among the Zealots, to lead an uprising that would bring the Romans down upon them. This happened in 70AD, but Jesus had no intention of doing this – at least not in the mode that the Zealots wanted. He was probably more inclined see things in the same way as the War Scrolls point, but not exactly that either.
    If you would like to read more about this subject from another perspective that is somewhat radical, yet quite different from those Mr. Potter points to, I would suggest “The Challenge of Jesus,” by NT Wright. This issue, like most, is not all black and white – it is full of grey. The problem with most discussions in our day is that people only read/hear one side of the argument whether it be NBC or FoxNews, or like in this issue, the right or the left. Mr. Potter is citing those on the left side only and those scholars do the same thing those on the right do – they cite only the sources that agree with their view. I like NT Wright because he gets attacked from BOTH sides which tells me he is working harder to find the grey, which usually means a more objective approach.
    My web site will have more on these issues in the coming months. Thank you.
    Al Baker, Ph.D.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/judasthegalilean/ Onias

    Mr Potter’s thesis is also consistent with another recent book on the historicity of ‘Jesus’ called “Judas the Galilean” by Daniel Unterbrink. Many of the readers of Robert Eisenman will notice that this Judas the Galilean performed many deeds similar to that of Jesus, such as cleansing the Temple as per Josephus’ Antiquites 17. 149-167. I personally doubt that Jesus existed by the name of Jesus, but the ‘Jesus figure’ was inspired by the real person, Judas the Galilean.
    Onias

  • google guy

    It’s good to do research, as I did a ton of it before coming to a saving faith, but believing in a conspiracy theory is a little far fetched. I suppose you believe that America was responsible for 9/11 as well. Although, I can see where you’re coming from when looking at the Catholic church, but they are not the proper church to look at. It might be good to look at their history though so you can see when it split.

  • Kevin

    Pure speculation and theory

  • http://www.nazoreans.com Donald Shankoff

    There may actually have been a real person upon which the gospel stories were based. There does exist a wealth of early Gnostic writings among the texts of the Mandaeans which refer to Yeshu (Jesus) and the Safed scroll which refers to the mock crucifixion of, the Essene, Yeshai beth Halachmee (Jesus), who agreed to be crucified to convert not the Jews to Christianity, but the Romans to Judaism. This individual may or may not have been the twin of Judas, not the Galilean but his son Judas, referred to by Josephus as Judas ‘Sepphoris’ known as Zipporai among the Jews. The Galilean lost his life after the Sepphoris raid. However, this individual was never known as Jesus Christ. It seems that the resurrection was based on the revival of the drugged Yeshai after he was entombed. However, by the time the gospel stories were written there was little known about this peaceful Messianic figure, who gave his name as Jesus ben Onanias or Onias. So, the authors of the gospels used the military campaign of Titus as the ministry of Jesus which Titus must have found hilarious.

    The timetable of the Jesus in Cornwall stories which are substaniated by early quotes support the idea that there actually was such a person who landed in Cornwall circa 6 CE. Strangely this is precisely where Vespasian was just prior to his deployment to the Middle East.

    Early mid first century mention of the term Christiani often cited as proof that Christianity existed before the ‘Jewish War’ translates as Nazorean and not Christian. You can learn more about how the Romans subverted the original Nazorean form of Judaism, known as the shoot or netzer, and created Christianity @ http://www.nazoreans.com. The article is long as there actually exists a wealth of information on this topic. You will also find out who was real Paul.

  • http://www.edfu-books.com Ralph Ellis

    He was a warrior king. See my book ‘King Jesus’.

    In fact, he was so powerful that he wanted to become emperor of Rome, as the Talmud suggests. But he failed, was crucified, reprieved, and exiled.

  • http://www.edfu-books.com Ralph Ellis

    Further to my last, the most likely theory is:

    Saul was actually Josephus. (both shipwrecked)
    The enemy of Saul was Jesus
    The enemy of Josephus was Jesus (of Gamala)
    As Saul-Josephus, thus it is apparent that we have many more descriptions of the biblical Jesus (of Gamala)

    So, using these new descriptions:
    Jesus was a prince descended from Cleopatra and Phraates IV. (hence the Magi)
    He was alive in AD70 and the Jewish Civil War.
    He was governor of Tiberias and owned a castle there.
    He became high priest of Jerusalem in AD 63.
    He was the leader of 600 rebel fishermen (yes, fishermen, just like the NT)
    He tried to regain the throne of Judaea, as a stepping stone to the Throne of Rome.
    He failed and was exiled to England (furthest post from judaea in the Empire).

    The spiritual aspect to the N.T. was padding invented by Saul-Josephus. This was a secular bid for power.

  • Roy Potter

    In history, politics, and religion, it is wise to apply three principles of criminlogy when looking for the truth: Means, Motive, and Opportunity. Usually, the powerful and the corrupt are the only ones who survive to tell the story from their point of view. These same people make every effort to squash or control all others.
    Some of you might want to view my YouTube site roypotterqa.