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How History Created the Bible

Table of Contents

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CHAPTER 1

The Bible: a game of two halves

CHAPTER 2

Will the real Israel please stand up

CHAPTER 3

Judean Propaganda and Social Cohesion

CHAPTER 4

The Cult of Yahweh

CHAPTER 5

The Rise of Tikka Masala

CHAPTER 6

From a Roman to a Christian Empire

CHAPTER 7

Protestant Reformation

CHAPTER 8

Contradictions in the Bible

CHAPTER 9

  • The Bible should come with a Mental Health Warning*

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How History Created the Bible

Published by Sui Generis 2017

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Copyright © 2017 by the Author M. A. Sebastian.

M. A. Sebastian asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and all international conventions.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the author/publisher, except where permitted by law.

This book is distributed subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent. It will not be transmitted in any form, binding or cover other than that in which it is published.

No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organisation acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by the author/publisher.

Published by Sui Generis

A word from the Author:

Our hopes and dreams are the pages on which our suffering writes the story of our lives.

Just as each of us is unique; so too, each of the stories imprisoned in the Bible contain the distinct expressions of individual lives and were never intended to be read as part of an anthology.

As people, we do not live in a vacuum and just as these stories were created as a reaction to a contemporary reality, so too, these stories cannot be understood without understanding the context of their creation; how we interpret these stories often says more about who we are, as people, than about the texts themselves.

The stories we tell create the world we live in and the images those stories express form the limits of our soul.

The Armenian Genocide was committed by men who felt justified in killing innocent women and children in the name of their sacred book, because their ‘God’ hated all that they hated and loved all that they loved.

Whilst this genocide was a Turkish tragedy, it might have been taken direct from the pages of the Old Testament.

History teaches us that we should be very careful of the stories we tell and even more careful of how we read them.

This book is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide 1915

With thanks to Wikipedia for the use of the cover photo (LC-USZ62-48100)

Published by Sui Generis Consultants Ltd

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(Non-fiction – History) Palestine Through the Eyes of Jesus

From Islam’s ‘Dome of the Rock’ to the myth of a Judean central monarchy, reality has been obscured by a history written by vested interests and religious fundamentalists.

‘Palestine Through the Eyes of Jesus’, cuts through the propaganda to reveal a first century Middle East, torn apart by religious fanatics and on the verge of rebellion.

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(Non-fiction – Religious History) The True Sayings of Jesus: the Nazarene Paradigm

For a Rome in love with Jewish prophecy, a Greek mystery religion stole the words of a Galilean Rabbi to create a popular Roman cult that changed the world.

After 10 years of research, author Antonio Sebastian explores the Q-Sayings hidden in the Gospels and their parallels in the Dead Sea Scrolls to find the words of the Jesus of history and trace their uniquely Jewish paradigm.

Where biblical scholars and literal translations have failed, Antonio succeeds in following the ideas and meanings of these teachings from Nazarene Judaism to modern Kabbalah.

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(Fiction) The Shroud of Edessa: the Secret of Mary Magdalene

A year after her husband’s horrific death, Mary Magdalene must return to a Jerusalem on the verge of a rebellion. Judea is torn between religious fundamentalists and the soldiers of a brutal occupation. In her husband’s tomb she finds a mystery that she cannot destroy. To protect a secret she cannot understand she must risk everything she loves.

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The First Letter of Jesus: the Secret of the Nazarenes

Palestine in the first century is a melting pot of Hebrew, Greek, Roman and Oriental thought. Lost in dreams of its past, Judea is a country at war with its own future. One man is caught between two worlds and strives to stop the violence.

Rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef is an Israeli prophet and mystic who has seen, within the Judean cult of animal sacrifice, the extermination of the Jewish people. Before the forces of darkness silence his voice forever he is determined to protect the ‘Secret of the Nazarenes’.

First Letter’ is the first four chapters of the Historical Fiction novel, ‘The Last Letters of Jesus’ and is available as a FREE download from www.thejesusofhistory.com.

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How History Created the Bible

 

[]CHAPTER 1

[] The Bible: a game of two halves

A story has two parents, the writer and the reader and while the parents share a common reality the story will be correctly understood. Unfortunately, the Bible is made up of stories made orphan by time and cultural appropriation. We do not share a common life experience with the writers of the books that now comprise the anthology we call the ‘Bible’. To find the truth and navigate a way through the text, you must ask yourself, who wrote what, when and why.

Many people insist that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but this view can only be sustained by studiously ignoring the historical and textual realities. Like most religious texts, the Bible is very confusing and, like a late night curry, on close investigation contains a lot that, to some, is offensive and, to others, is dangerous to consume. Just as, no matter which Indian restaurant people visit they only ever order their favourite dishes, so too, do people restrict their spirituality to the safety of the familiar.

People support their own individual religious views and dismiss the beliefs of others by mistranslating some of the words of the Bible and by reading verses out of context — they insist that the Bible means ‘what they say it means’. The stories themselves were written for many different reasons by people separated from us, and from each other, by thousands of years. Some of the Hebrew stories of the Old Testament support a monotheistic cult of animal sacrifice, while the narratives of the New Testament inculcate a polytheistic Greek Mystery Cult. The stories in the Bible are used to support three major religions and thousands of different denominations of belief, all of which are convinced that everyone else is going to hell. Of course, the Bible is contradictory! How could it not be?

For hundreds of years, serious biblical scholars have been aware that the Bible contains both fact and fable. They know that, contrary to popular belief, God did not commission the Bible. Luke didn’t get an email asking him to write the third Gospel and neither did the Prophet Isaiah dream that his words would be shoehorned into a pagan anthology. Ironically, the executioners of the Islamic State, in all their bloody glory, are only applying the laws that were first written down by Jews, two and a half thousand years ago. Each writer, whose work has been included in the Bible, had a very individual and highly partisan message and, to a man, they intended their work to be read and understood on their own terms, not on ours.

As an example, Jesus is reported as saying:

Why call me good? There is none good but one, God!”

Luke 18:19

Like many of the ‘Sayings’ attributed to Jesus of history his syntax is short. He uses Zen-like axioms, which push us to the direct realisation of his meaning. His vision is entirely concerned with our daily interaction with the world and conforms to, and complements, established Jewish thought and practice. Indeed, most of these sayings contain highly complex references to Jewish texts and appear to be an attempt to prevent the student from listening ‘intellectually’. It is evident then that whoever spoke these words did not believe that they were a God.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of John we have the long Greek syntax speeches, which assert the superiority of an alien God-man who sacrifices himself to himself and is untouched by the world and yet seeks total dominion over it.

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

John 6:35

The Johannine sayings are complex and seductively beautiful; they invariably echo the Christology of Paul. Indeed they inculcate a Greek world view and contain a philosophy that is the complete antithesis of Jewish thought.

The entire modern Progressive Christian movement is based on a subconscious awareness that there is an inherent contradiction between some of the words of Jesus and the main body of Christian doctrine. According to the gospels, the life and purpose of Christ Jesus supports and endorses the concepts of animal sacrifice and the salvation of a fallen creation from a sinful and corrupted world. On the other hand, if we look at some of his reported words, the Jesus of history speaks of an eternal God of love and a perfect world available to all. So what is going on? Obviously, these two statements were spoken by two very different men from two completely different cultures whose messages are in complete opposition.

From the very beginning of Christianity, people have been aware of the fact that there are contradictions in the Bible. Indeed, this book will demonstrate that, given the history of its creation, these contradictions must be considered to be inevitable. Some people have tried to reconcile the paradoxes, whilst others have exploited the textual ambiguities and used them as a way to excuse their own psychosis. People like Marcion and Mani set up their own religions to account for evil, while Augustine and Calvin blamed God for their own evil inclinations.

Fifty years ago, Europe and America were principally Christian countries. Indeed the edifice of western civilisation was built on a bedrock of our shared Judeo-Christian culture. So what happened? What went wrong? What exactly killed the Church? Was it the fact that the Church loudly supported so many wars and signed deals with Mussolini and Hitler, two of the last century’s most ‘evil’ men. Perhaps the rise of Cultural Marxism has consumed it, like a cancer, from within? Perhaps we’ve just outgrown God, or is it possible that Nietzsche was right, maybe God is dead and we are on our own? Even the English Archbishop of Canterbury recently confessed that he doubts that God exists. Many of the most fashionable and senior members of the modern Christian Church call themselves atheists and certainly over two millennia most Church leaders have perfectly demonstrated human evil rather than the spiritual advantages of the ‘holy spirit’ of which they boast a monopoly.

If ‘God is dead’ then we would have to ask Herr Nietzsche, to which God was he referring? Within the Bible there seems to be several Gods, all of them with very different personalities, their stories inculcating very different ways of life. This book examines, by way of a narrative, the sociopolitical context that gave rise to the stories in the Bible and the religious and political conclusions to which they have led. We will examine some of the most obvious contradictions and misunderstandings, which have resulted from a Greek cultural appropriation of a Hebrew story. The Hebrew people were, and are, remarkable for their love of story. Our book, therefore, must begin with them.

[] CHAPTER 2

[] Will the real Israel please stand up

Imagine an account of the First World War written separately by the British, Russians, Germans and Americans. In a thousand years time a Neo-Nazi scribe (for his own religious and political reasons) collects each of those very different stories and then edits them into one book. To further complicate the matter, two thousand years after the odious Neo-Nazi scribe publishes his book, you are now asked to decide which of the stories are actually true or false. This analogy may give you some idea of what the books of the Old Testament actually are. In answer to the question, “Is the Bible true?” You would have to answer both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Jewish archaeologists and scholars have concluded that we can’t read the Old Testament as history but rather a symptom of it. The general arc of the Old Testament can be summarised as follows:

Adam disobeys god and gets everyone kicked out of Eden.

God picks Abraham to be the father of the Jewish people, who will then be god’s chosen people.

The ‘Jews’ become slaves to the Egyptians but god saves them and kills the Egyptian children.

King David creates a great Judean nation with Jerusalem as its capital.

Everything that ever goes wrong for the Jewish people is because they’ve displeased god and didn’t worship him enough or didn’t sacrifice enough animals.

The end.

Modern archaeologists have, thankfully, found no evidence for this rather depressing and morally disturbing narrative. Professor Israel Finkelstein has shown that the Jewish people evolved in, rather than migrated to, the land of Canaan. The people of Canaan were Semitic and they occupied a territory that stretched from the Mediterranean coast to the Dead Sea and extended from Egypt to the Lebanon.

In the fifteenth century BC the eastern Mediterranean suffered a geological event bigger than any in the memory of man. The volcanic island of Santorini exploded with a force hundreds of times greater than the atomic bomb, which destroyed Hiroshima. A tidal wave over one hundred feet high crossed the Mediterranean destroying coastal cities and all shipping. The pyroclastic flow from the eruption would have skimmed the water and could have reached as far as the island of Crete. The Minoan civilisation was, almost overnight, wiped from the face of the earth.

For the people of the south east Mediterranean it must have seemed like the end of the world. As the sea receded from the coast of Egypt to feed one of the largest tidal waves the world had ever seen, it must have seemed like the sea had been parted. The day would have turned to night. Plagues would have followed the death of wildlife. As the entire area is geologically unstable, it is likely that the eastern Mediterranean suffered aftershocks for years.

Prior to this apocalyptic event, nomadic and pastoral peoples in Canaan had relied on trade with local farming communities. The ash cloud, from the Santorini explosion, would have destroyed farming in the area for years. Crops were destroyed and the farming communities no longer had a surplus to trade.

It is believed by many archaeologists that it was at this time, that the pastoral Hebrew people began to populate the highlands around Galilee and the Jezreel Valley and started farming for themselves. Within a short time, a confederation of small villages soon became city states devoted to the production of olive oil. This confederation eventually gave birth to the Kingdom of Israel, which was based around Shechem in the north.

The archaeological and genetic evidence confirms that there never was a migration of ‘Hebrew’ people into Canaan; they already lived there. That will bear repeating! The Hebrew nation is an indigenous people! The Hebrew kingdoms extended from Egypt to the Lebanon and stretched between the Mediterranean coast and to the deserts of Perea. The modern Progressive Left, love to condemn Israel for ‘stealing’ Palestinian land but this is both culturally and historically ignorant.

The stories of Abraham in the Old Testament relate the birth of the Jewish nation and focus on a period in the early second millennium BC. An interesting piece of evidence, which hints at the late composition of the Torah (circa 500 BC), comes from Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures. They have demonstrated that camels were not domesticated in the near east until 1000 BC, which means the stories of pre-history were later literary versions of an earlier oral tradition.

King Herod built ‘The Tomb of the Patriarchs’, on the spot where Abraham and Isaac were supposedly buried. The tomb is constructed over a Canaanite graveyard. We can therefore speculate that if Abraham was buried under the Tomb of the Patriarchs then he was probably a Canaanite and not a ‘Jew’. It is possible that ‘Abraham’ is a literary creation projected onto the legends of different men. It is equally possible that he was a real person on whom the legends were hung. For us though, the truth of the story lies in its expression of how the birth of the Hebrew nation actually felt to the people involved, not in the details, which are obviously now unknowable.

Inconveniently for Barak Hussein Obama, the UN and the Progressive Left, there is ample historical evidence for a Kingdom of Israel. In fact, there are three Israels, not one; there is the Israel of history, the Israel of Judean myth and there is the new state of Israel roughly occupying the old kingdom of Judah, which was Latinised to ‘Judea’ when the Romans invaded in the first century BC.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah raised a monument at Thebes commemorating his victory over the Kingdom of Israel. This Stele dates to sometime between 1213-1203 BC. We know that the Israel to which he was referring was in Canaan. Obviously we must ask ourselves, ‘what archaeological evidence do we have for a political entity in Canaan that would pose a sufficient threat to an Egyptian king that would motivate him to cross a desert to destroy it’?

Unfortunately, until the eleventh century BC Judah was dominated by Egypt both culturally and politically; it was effectively a province of Egypt, so why invade it? Prior to the late eighth century BC, Jerusalem was not much more than a small fortification protecting its one water source. A few sparsely populated villages scattered over barren hills, it had little to offer a goat let alone an Egyptian king.

The Archaeological evidence, however, does support the rise of a great Kingdom in the north of the country. Centred around the Jezreel Valley and Galilee, the city states of Samaria and Megiddo were famous. The Kingdom of Israel was lush and fertile; the country supported greater densities of population than Judah and allowed the Kingdom to grow to the point that foreign rulers started to get nervous. The best thing about the Kingdom of Israel was that it was a long way from the coast and the invaders called the ‘Sea Peoples’.

The invasion of Canaan by the Sea Peoples in the twelfth century BC is thought to have created a political vacuum on the coast, which allowed the Kingdom of Israel to flourish in the northern highlands.

The Sea Peoples were a ferocious confederation of mercenaries that contributed to the destruction of the Hittites, Egyptians and Mycenaeans. They populated the coastal strip of Judah and controlled the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath and Gaza. As a side note, these people were the ancestral enemies of the Hebrews and Canaanites whose land they stole. They came to be known as the Philistines. The Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed Judea as Philistia in 137 AD. The Philistines obviously became the Palestinians. However, it is worth noting that when the Arab hordes invaded in the seventh century AD, they supplanted the indigenous Philistines. The modern Palestinians are Arab and not the remnant of the Sea Peoples.

The culture of Israel was quite cosmopolitan with many Canaanites, Phoenicians and Assyrians living within its borders. The name of the Kingdom of Israel is a clue to its original religious belief. ‘Isra-el’ can mean ‘Contends with God’ or it can mean ‘Protected by God’. In all probability it means both ‘protected and contends’ and each implies the other; either way ‘El’ is the name of the first God of the Jewish people from the northern part of the country. El was considered to be like a spiritual Father. The worship of El and Asherah was focused on the mountains and groves. El was often represented by a calf and Asherah by a tree. The priests of El offered incense and olive oil to the ‘Light of the Creator’.

When Moses spoke to God within the burning bush it was to ‘El’ he was speaking. El is non-physical and encompasses everything. It was El Shaddai (El of the Mountain) from whom Jacob obtains the name Israel. El was considered to be the God of all living things and always ‘Good’. Often depicted riding upon the wings of angels or on the back of the calf (1550 BC) — an animal that was sacred to El as it was to the Canaanites. The worship of El centred around groves and high places, although the ordinary people offered olive oil and incense in their homes.

The cultic centre of Israel was the shrine of Beth-El at Shechem, its capital was the city of Samaria (Genesis 28:19). ‘El’ was described as having a wife, Asherah, and she was represented by the Serpent Staff, which El had given to Moses. She was often represented as having the lower body of a tree. The Menorah is a representation of the consort of El (the feminine aspect of El).

There is anthropological evidence to suggest that El and Asherah were understood to be two different aspects of the one God. There is no evidence of a monotheistic religion in Canaan prior to the late eighth century. The God Yahweh was later imported from the Negev desert, which lay to the south between Judah and Egypt. By the eighth century BC, there is archaeological evidence that Yahweh was subsuming the role of El. On some inscriptions, Asherah was no longer referred to as the wife of El but the wife of Yahweh.

Israel controlled the fertile farming land of Galilee and the Jezreel Valley. Israel was famous in the Mediterranean basin for the quality of its horses and its armoured chariots. Several palaces with huge stables have been found by archaeologists. In the accounts of this period, Tiglath-pileser III doesn’t even mention Judah in reference to the Assyrian military plans for that area.

Sparsely populated and largely ignored by history, Judah looked toward its northern cousin with envious eyes. By the beginning of the ninth century BC, the house of Omri had brought peace, and prosperity, to Israel. We have five pieces of third party evidence for the power and prestige of the Kingdom of Israel and the house of Omri, all from the Assyrians. The Tal Dan Stele suggests that in the second half of the ninth century, Israel and Judah fought in an alliance against the Syrians. We will examine the significance of that fact in the next chapter.

Of course, the alliance between Judah and Israel could never last. At the end of the eighth century, King Jehoahaz (Ahaz) assumed the throne of his father, Jotham.

Although Jotham had fought several wars against Israel, he was also anti-Assyria. The Judean pro-Assyrian faction forced Jotham to retire. Judah had been a virtual client of Assyria since King Ahaz’s grandfather, Azariah, was defeated by Tiglath-Pileser III.

The biased Bible narrative tells us that on the assumption of the throne, King Ahaz (Jehoahaz) was attacked by Israel and Syria as a way to persuade Judah to join their alliance against the Assyrians but this is obviously a part of the later Judean supremacist propaganda written into the story in order to justify Judah’s perfidy, which will eventually result in the destruction of Israel. Let’s analyse this proposition: if one is hoping for a military alliance with a country in order to overcome an overwhelming force, nobody in the history of war would attack prospective allies as a way to compel compliance. This tactic would weaken both countries’ resources enough to make the planned campaign pointless. I suggest that it is far more likely that the two Kings (of Syria and Israel) petitioned the young Judean King to form an alliance against Assyria using diplomacy.

Given the fact that Israel, Syria and Judah were being forced to pay the Assyrians a crippling tribute, an alliance of the three nations based on the promise of support from Egypt would have been the logical move. Going to war with a potential ally makes no military or political sense. Jotham of Judah, the young King’s father, had been rabidly anti-Israel and an alliance would have been impossible with the old man but with the arrival of his son, the time would have been right to move against Assyria and an alliance advantageous for all.

Unfortunately, Ahaz was only twenty and had no taste for war. He took all of the silver and gold he could collect from the Temple and the treasury and went up Ninevah to bribe the Assyrians to destroy Israel and Syria. Assyria could not allow any Egyptian interference in its business and was keen to nip any local alliance in the bud.

The Assyrian army destroyed all the Israeli coastal cities. Once Israel was cut off from the sea, the Assyrian army turned inland and destroyed the Israeli capital. Tiglath killed the King of Israel and put his own puppet, Hoshea, in his place. The Assyrians then turned north west and destroyed Aramaea (Syria) and took the Syrian city of Damascus. Tiglarth then executed the Syrian King, Rezin.

Predictably enough, after fifteen years, the new client King, Hoshea, decided to make an alliance with Egypt. He failed to pay the Assyrians. The new Assyrian King, Shalmaneser, lay siege to Samaria, the capital of Israel. The siege was to last three years. During that time, Shalmaneser died and Sargon II took over the throne of Assyria. In 722 BC, he ended the siege and destroyed the city and took the famous armoured chariots of Israel into his own army. From the first Judean betrayal it took twenty years to finally destroy the once great Kingdom of Israel.

With Israel’s main cities destroyed and the elites taken captive, the ordinary people from Galilee and Jezreel flooded south as refugees of war. It is estimated from the archaeological evidence that Jerusalem grew by thirty thousand people. If Judah had been of a significant size it may well have defended its borders against such a destabilising influence but from the evidence we can see that it just lacked the resources.

By 716 BC, Judah had a new king; Ahaz had died at the age of thirty-six and left the throne to his young son, Hezekiah. Although young, Hezekiah was a gifted leader and military genius.

Unfortunately for him, two Judean prophets dominated the court in, what must have effectively been, a theocracy. Isaiah was the nephew of a previous king and part of the royal family; his career had spanned two previous kings. The Prophet Micah came from the country outside of Jerusalem and had the support of the common Judeans. Both of these prophets would be considered to be fundamentalists in modern parlance and were rabidly anti-Israel. Isaiah, like the Ayatollahs that would follow his theocratic lead, had been dominating Judean court-life for decades. Against these two experienced and well connect politicians, Hezekiah had no chance.

It is likely that it was in the time of King Hezekiah that the oral traditions of the Hebrew people were first written down in the form of a pro-Judean narrative. Like with our Neo-Nazi propagandist, truth becomes twisted to fit a religious and cultural agenda. Judean anti-Israel rhetoric had always had an ugly undercurrent of nascent supremacism, and with the writing of the Old Testament it now has a medium to express its bile-filled view of the world.Hezekiah was a devotee of the desert God called Yahweh, unlike his father. Supported or influenced by the two charismatic Prophets, Isaiah and Micah, Hezekiah began a series of reforms and strategies that would create a nation under an effective theocracy but would, also, ultimately lead to its destruction.

[]CHAPTER 3

[] Judean Propaganda and Social Cohesion

When the Christian priest, Martin Luther wrote his book, ‘On the Jews and their lies’, he reopened the sluice gate to a religious and cultural persecution that had plagued the Jewish people since the rise of Christianity. The book was remarkable for the enthusiasm with which a, so called, ‘man of god’ embraced Pauline anti-Semitism. It is somewhat ironic that this persecution was an echo of the earlier oppression that the Judeans had visited on the Israeli refugees after the Assyrian destruction of the Kingdom of Israel and the cities of Shechem, Tirzah and Samaria two thousand years previously.

In 722 BC, in response to the sudden influx of Israelis into Jerusalem, King Hezekiah began a series of religious and cultural pogroms against the worship of El and Asherah. Both II Kings 18 and II Chronicles 29 cover this period in some detail. These two, highly partisan texts, are most interesting for the things that they don’t say and the things that they assume as common knowledge.

The people had always worshipped El in the ‘high places’ and groves. In II Kings 18 it is mentioned, more as an aside than a statement, that Hezekiah destroys the staff given to Moses by God. The staff of Moses is mentioned in Exodus 4 and again in Numbers 21:9. Whether this was a bronze staff that Moses had made on the instructions of God or if it was the one that God had given to Moses directly is unclear, but whichever, it does seem odd that the Judeans were keen on Moses in general but celebrate the destruction of a staff touched by God? Obviously this is a hint of the realities behind a persecution of the previous Israeli religion and cannot be taken at face value.

I would posit that as the Israeli refugees arrived in Jerusalem, defeated and destitute, they were ripe for indoctrination into a cult that would provide some explanation as to why their God had deserted them. Hezekiah forms the core of an official priesthood and orders them to clear out the temple. He instigates the cult of animal sacrifice. The Altar of Burnt Offerings in the Jerusalem temple had fallen into neglect and had to be cleansed. The people were no longer allowed to burn incense but were forced to attend the temple sacrifices.

In practical terms, with only one water source, the most immediate problem in Jerusalem was an adequate supply of fresh water. Previously the Gihon spring was located outside of the defensible walls of the city. It was protected by a tower with a small fortified corridor. This arrangement had been adequate for a village, which would never have to suffer a serious siege, but now that Jerusalem was big enough for a foreign power to notice, a more defensible solution was necessary. Hezekiah ordered the Israeli engineers to cut a tunnel over five hundred metres long through solid rock to bring water within the walls of the city. This major feat of engineering (a repeat of the civil engineering we know existed in Israel) brought a reliable source of water into the Siloam Pool. Previously the well had only been accessible by one person at a time but now, thanks to the Israeli engineers, the new civic well provided a long trough with enough room for a score of people to collect water at the same time.

As we have seen, until this time, the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah had been entirely separate and had fought several bitter wars. They were as different and as antithetical as the English and the French have always been. One can imagine a Judean paraphrasing the old English phrase, “The only business of a Judean gentlemen is killing Israelis.” It is a testimony to King Hezekiah’s genius that he turned, what could have been a disaster, into a remarkable feat of leadership.

It may be that Hezekiah used the cult of Yahweh as a way to create social cohesion or it may be that he was, indeed, a religious fanatic. Judah had been flirting with the cult of animal sacrifice, based around the worship of Yahweh, for generations. Hezekiah needed a way to unite these very different Hebrew tribes and get them to work together instead of trying to kill each other.

It was at this time that the stories of a united monarchy of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, began. Old Hebrew folk stories were given a new Judean spin. New books of Moses were ‘found’ by Hilkiah, the Hight Priest serving the King Hezekiah. All of the suffering of the Hebrew people was blamed on the Israelis and their worship of El. Any reverses of Judean fortunes were explained, by the new theocracy, as a failure of the people to worship Yahweh properly.

In 705 BC, Sargon II of Assyria died and left his throne to his son, Sennacherib. Flushed with his recent successes against the Philistines, Hezekiah thought that it would be a good time to break free of the Assyrian yoke. Not being a student of history, Hezekiah foolishly enters into an alliance with Egypt in the hope of military support. Sennacherib, the new Assyrian King, was determined to crush any challenge to Assyrian power. Possibly because of the Egyptian alliance, Assyria was determined to make an example out of both Babylon and Judah.

Luckily for Judah, Assyria turns to Babylon first. It was this delay that gave Hezekiah time to prepare. It was during this brief respite that Hezekiah built a wall over eight metres high by eight metres wide to protect the city from the Assyrian army. He also destroyed all water sources in reach of a besieging army, which would prove useful later.

Sennacherib’s army, ingeniously, marched against the Judean fortress city of Lachish keeping the Judeans off balance. This fortress city lay to the south west of Jerusalem and would have provided a supply route and a sense of hope to the defenders of Jerusalem. The Assyrian army consisted of the Israeli armoured chariots as well as their engineers, and it was those engineers that would prove decisive to the eventual Assyrian victory. As the gates and walls of the city proved to be strongly defended, the Assyrians decided to build a ramp to allow their infantry access to the city.

While this ramp was being built against the walls of Lachish one can imagine the fear and trepidation among the defenders of Jerusalem. Hezekiah, terrified of the Assyrian reprisals against civilians, sent his envoy to deliver the following message to Sennacherib: “I have done wrong; turn away from me; whatever you impose on me I will pay.”

Sennacherib quickly demanded three hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold. Keep in mind that a ‘Talent’ was roughly the weight of man (50 kg). Hezekiah stripped the silver and the gold from the newly renovated temple and sent it to the Assyrian King.

The next episode in the saga is very interesting, from the reported dialogue in II Chronicles 17 it seems that the Assyrian King was a little nervous of this new cult of Yahweh and how it had managed to unite the Hebrew people. The text details how the Assyrian emissary spoke to the defenders directly in Hebrew rather than the courtly Aramaic so that the ordinary people would hear. From this we can conclude that the Assyrians knew that the cult of Yahweh was being imposed by the Judean elites on the ordinary people of Israel and Judah. It must also have been a relatively new thing.

In what do you trust that you remain under siege in Jerusalem? Does not Hezekiah persuade you to give yourselves over to die by famine and by thirst, saying ‘The Lord our God will deliver us…’ Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars…”

II Chronicles 32:11

Despite accepting the huge bribe, the Assyrians were determined to install their own elites over the new city of Jerusalem. The siege continued but without an adequate water source the, over confident, army was doomed. It is very likely that an epidemic broke out, probably cholera. Severely weakened, the army of the Assyrians were forced to retreat back to Nineveh. What is interesting is that the texts attribute this victory of strategy not to the fact that the King had built an eight metre high wall and destroyed Assyrian access to water but to Isaiah and the new cult of Yahweh.

Suspiciously, Hezekiah’s subordinate position relative to Isaiah is further reinforced by the inclusion of a sub story detailing an illness that the King then suffers. The King is doomed to die but thanks to Isaiah and Yahweh he gets another fifteen years. Just why Yahweh wanted to torment the King is not explained.

The story then goes on to implicate the King in the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. The writer then implies that because Hezekiah entertains some ambassadors from Babylon that the eventual fall to the armies of Babylon was his fault and then Isaiah prophesies the defeat of Jerusalem due to Hezekiah’s ‘pride’.

The fact that Judah had been paying off its enemies for the last hundred years and had colluded in the destruction of Israel is forgotten by the Judean writer. For the Assyrians, Judah had always been weak and an easy mark.

Right from this first story of the rise of the cult of Yahweh and his ‘Prophets’, one can’t help feeling that no matter what the people did, it would never be good enough for the priests. Hezekiah was the most passionate supporter in history of the priesthood and their cult of Yahweh but the poison pen of a spittle-flecked scribe cannot resist blackening his name in order to advance their own propaganda of retrospective ‘prophecy’.

After the much maligned Hezekiah dies, his twelve year old son, Manasseh, takes over the throne. He decides not to support the cult of Yahweh. He re-established the ancient systems of worship. He reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-five years. Eventually his son, Amon, took the throne and also did not support the cult of Yahweh, this was probably more than the priests could take. Amon was assassinated and Josiah, his eight year old son, was put on the throne, probably by Hilkiah the chief priest.

Suddenly the book of Kings and Chronicles waxes all lyrical. An eight year old boy is a lot easier to control than a twenty-two year old man, particularly if you’ve just had his father murdered in his own house. Predictably enough, the theocracy of Yahweh is reinstigated and the animal sacrifices recommences. The temple is stripped of the images of Asherah and astrology. Everything is burnt in the Kidron Valley. Interestingly, when in II Kings 23:5 it details the removal of the ‘idolatrous’ priests who ‘burn incense on high places to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations and to the hosts of heaven’. What is not mentioned is that they offer sacrifice to those things, which if they did would have been mentioned in detail.

King Josiah is by this time eighteen, the text goes into gory detail how the young Judean King goes on a killing spree and destroys any worship other than that of Yahweh. The writer gets a bit worked up at this point and tells us that the Judean King goes up to the cities of Israel to continue his religious pogrom. We know that Samaria was still in the hands of the Assyrians and should be discounted. This bloodthirsty passage was probably written much later and projected back to this time to bolster the narrative.

Despite Josiah’s devotion to Hilkiah and his priests and despite the fact that he had reinstated the worship of Yahweh, we are informed that Yahweh now wants to destroy Judah.

Pharaoh Nacho of Egypt decides to take his army to the aid of his Assyrian ally against the rising power of Babylon. To do this he must pass through Judah. Hearing of the Egyptian army’s incursion into his territory, the Judean King does something rather strange. He races to confront the Egyptian army led by the Pharaoh himself. We can only assume that the Judean King Josiah, having massacred a few priests of El, believes that Yahweh will give him a military victory over the might of Egypt. He goes to face Nacho in Megiddo and is immediately killed by the Pharaoh himself.

Hilkiah, the priest of Yahweh, could have prevented this stupidity and persuaded the King to take a wiser course. Obviously, the scribes blame the Judean defeat on the King and on the people not worshipping Yahweh enough.

After this military debacles, it was inevitable that Babylon would have to attack Judah; it was only a matter of time.

Predictably enough, Judah once again became a province of Egypt. The next two kings wisely ditched the cult of Yahweh. They also ended up having to pay the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, tribute money. After three years, the new King, Jehoiakim, stopped paying. He died and the new King, Jehoiachin, took over but he was only eighteen and had no chance against the might of Babylon.

The boy only lasted three months before the Babylonians took the city without a fight. All the Judean elites were taken to Babylon in captivity. That, apart from a little contretemps three years later involving a siege, was the end of Judah for fifty-eight years — until Cyrus the Great decided to sponsor the Judean prince, Sheshbazzar, and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. Once again the cult of animal sacrifice and its privileged priest would be back in business.

[]CHAPTER 4

[] The Cult of Yahweh

In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated the Babylonian empire. After fifty-eight years, the Judean elites living in Babylon had done very well. Most of the surviving exiled Judeans had been born in Babylon and many had achieved positions of power. As with expats everywhere, particularly when intimidated by a superior culture, legends of home become magnified beyond all reality. The Judean exiles knew nothing of their homeland. All they had were the legends and stories handed down from biased Judean priests and family. In the minds of these Babylonian-Judeans, Israel and Judah had become one country instead of two (Ref 1). From this point on in the Old Testament narrative, the terms for Israel and Judah are used interchangeably. The physical and literary destruction of the true Kingdom of Israel was finally complete.

Cyrus the Great adopted the policy of repatriating all peoples dispossessed by the Babylonians. He sent the Judean prince, Sheshbazzar, back to Judah with enough gold and silver to rebuild the city. The book of Ezra details the prestigious families who returned with him. With the backing of the Persian state, the Judeans brought their warped and nationalistic view of Judah and its mythical history back to Jerusalem with them.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which detail this period, somewhat confuse the sequence of the Persian kings and compress events separated by centuries into a short narrative. It is obvious that these books were written and redacted at a much later date in order to create a politically acceptable narrative about earlier events (Ref 2). We obviously have to be very careful when reading these texts. We can, however, get a feeling for the back story.

The people, who still lived in Judah and what was left of Israel, fiercely resisted the Judean nationalistic view. Indeed, many people feared a return to the cult of animal sacrifice and the religious intolerance previously introduced by Hezekiah. Letters were sent to the Persian administration and, by this time, King Artazerxes (actually came after Darius not before) was in power. Much to the relief of the natives of Judah and what was left of Israel, he ordered all work to cease on the fortifications of Jerusalem and the temple.

Darius the First took over the Persian Empire around 522 BC, being half Jewish himself, it was a safe bet that he would support the rebuilding of the temple. The Judeans pressed their advantage and asked him for permission to resume reconstruction. Not only was it granted but he also added the caveat that a local tax would be levied on Judah and Israel to pay for the rebuilding of the temple.

The temple tax must have pleased the Judean elites as it went straight to them but it sowed the seeds of rebellion.

The Judean fanatic Ezra was a descendant of our friend Hilkiah ‘the Torah forger’. With the reinstatement of temple worship, Ezra felt secure enough to take Judean supremacism to a whole new level. The first casualty of this virulent racism was social cohesion. Before the exile, the Israelis had been much more cosmopolitan than the Judeans and it was common for Hebrew men to take non-Hebrew wives. The returned Judean elites, backed by the power of the Persian state, demanded that all mixed marriages now be annulled. Can you imagine the social upheaval that this ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ would have caused? The Judean elites had been in exile for fifty-eight years. Entire families would have been ripped apart; children would have lost their fathers. Mixed blood children would become second class citizens overnight.

The enforced ethnic cleansing, the temple tax, the forging of the Torah were too much for the Israeli citizens in the north. The people of Samaria decide to separate themselves from Judah. What was left of the Israelis became the ‘Shomeronim’ (‘those who conserve’). To the Judeans, the name ‘Samaritan’ became a curse word. Even now, if you Google search Samaritan you will read the Judean narrative and conclude that the Samaritans are not Jewish. Unfortunately for the Judeans, we now have science rather than propaganda.

A study carried out by Peidon Shen for the Journal of Human Mutation used both mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome DNA of modern day Samaritans to confirm or deny their claims. The results proved conclusively that Samaritans are genetically related to near eastern Jews on the male side. This is entirely in keeping with the Israeli custom of taking foreign wives while retaining their Jewish identity through the male line.

It was Ezra’s genius that he realised that if you control the narrative you can control history. A lie told often enough becomes the truth. To this day, the Samaritans insist that the original Law of Moses had been changed by the Judeans. Unfortunately, the victor gets to write the history so for most of the world, the Samaritans are not considered to be Jewish.

As the numbers of Judeans returning from Babylon increased and the walls of the city were completed, Ezra recreates the Covenant in the name of Yahweh instead of El. It is evident from the textual and archaeological evidence that the original covenant between the Hebrew people and God was with El and it was based in Shechem and Beth-El. Any temple from the tenth century period would have been in Samaria, Megiddo or Shechem. The one place Solomon’s temple would not have been was Jerusalem.

In all likelihood, contrary to the garbled biblical narrative, the building of the temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem probably continued from the return to Jerusalem in 539 BC until the rule of King Artaxerxes in 465 BC.

Scholars believe that it was in this period that the Old Testament, as we know it, was composed and there is a good case to be made for Ezra being its main architect. The Hebrew people had an oral tradition going back thousands of years, they also had various texts, which are now lost to us. Scholars have identified four main sources to the Old Testament, which are usually listed as the Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist and Priestly Sources. Usually these are abbreviated to J, E, D, and P. Biblical scholars make a good living arguing endlessly about minute details of the text and the validity of the sources. With the greatest respect, such intellectual confetti is a little like arguing points of ballistics whilst facing a firing squad; such discussions kind of miss the point. Before anything else, the Bible is a literary creation and God in the Bible is a literary character.

We expect the characters in our stories to be internally coherent. We all hate it when new writers are brought in and a long running TV show betrays the character of the protagonist. Within all the stories of the Bible, God is the central protagonist and for the last two thousand years, people have felt cheated when following his story in the Bible. The character is just not believable due to his lack of coherence.

The J, D and P sources to the Old Testament are all essentially Judean and have a Judean agenda. Only the E source encapsulates an Israeli view of God. Where the Elohist source contradicts or repeats the Yahwist source it has been deleted. Very little of the Elohist source remains and what we do have is somewhat disjointed. In these stories, God is referred to in Hebrew as Elohim.

God comes to man through dreams, angels and prophecy. The Elohist sources mention Mount Horeb and the natives of Canaan as Amorites. The Elohist sources are entirely centred around the northern cultic sites. More important than any of those details is the fact that the nature of God in the Elohist source is disincarnate and imminent.

In the Elohist source there is nothing that is not God. Logically to support a cult of animal sacrifice, you cannot have a God that considers all life as sacred and equally valuable. The Judean view inculcates a view of God as separate and remote from creation. This is the vision of God as described in the Yahwist, Priestly and Deuteronomist sources of the Judeans. This morally ambivalent God came back from the deserts of Babylon with the Judeans, but Isaiah and King Hezekiah had laid the foundations of this cult and this view of God nearly two hundred years before.

The God of Babylon was the God Marduk. He, like the God in the Old Testament, was mentally unstable and could be ‘Good’ one day but destroy people on a whim the next day. He was mirrored by a familiar animal in the form of a dragon. This dragon had four legs but the body of a serpent. Marduk was both ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ and demanded blood sacrifices. The Babylonian text, Enuma Elish details and, in many ways, parallels the Old Testament view of God.

Babylonian: “Word of him (Marduk) shall endure, not to be forgotten.”

Enuma Elish Tablet V11:31-2

Hebrew: “The word of our God shall stand forever.”

Isaiah 40:8

***

Babylonian: “Command destruction or creation, they shall take place: each at your (Marduk) word.”

Enuma Elish Tablet IV:20

Hebrew: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and I create evil: I am the Lord and doeth all these things.”

Isaiah 45:7

***

Babylonian: “Oh Marduk, you are Lord of all Gods.”

Enuma Elish IV:5

Hebrew: “Our God is above all gods…God of gods.”

Psalm 135:5/136:2

The Judeans enforced their cult on the people of Judah and Israel. The Old Testament insists that the cult of animal sacrifice was universally loved and accepted by the people but the archaeology suggests otherwise. Outside of Jerusalem the people continued to worship God as they had done for thousands of years.

When the Greeks invaded in 332 BC, most people quickly adopted a Hellenistic way of life. The archaeology demonstrates that Greek quickly become the common language. More important to our discussion, Hebrew ideas about life and our place in it started to become affected by Greek philosophy. Speculation about the soul and the nature of our relationship with God resurfaced.

Naturally, the Judeans were not going to give up without a fight. This was the beginning of a battle for religious reform, which was prematurely terminated by the Roman destruction of Judea in 135 AD but I’m getting ahead of myself. The result of this internal friction between the Israeli and Judean vision of God has resulted in some hilariously ridiculous literary compromises. Let’s quickly look at two examples:

The Prophet Balaam:

This story comes from the book of Numbers. The back story is that the Israelites have just wiped the Amorites off the face of the earth. They now pitch up on the plains of Moab. The King of Moab is suitably terrified and sends to his allies, the Midianites, for help. They decide that it would be a good idea to consult the Prophet Balaam. Long story short, Balaam is told by the Hebrew God (who he also worships) that he cannot curse the Israelites. Despite being bribed with gold, he refuses to curse the Israelites and this is where the story would have originally ended. It was obviously designed to show the virtue of the Israelites and the fact that God speaks to all men of righteousness.

A philosophically enlightening story until our spittle-flecked fanatic Ezra gets hold of the story! Inserted from verse 20 to 36 is a ridiculous story of a talking donkey. Ezra has Yahweh order Balaam to go with the Midianites but then is inexplicably angry with him. Then, in a land famous for the quality of its horses, he has Balaam ride a donkey obviously just to make him look ridiculous. Yahweh sends an invisible angel to torment the donkey until Balaam loses his temper and beats the poor the thing half to death.

After this story is finished we go onto the equally disgusting racial genocide of the Midianites (more of which later). Ezra has Moses demand the death of all the women and children and blames Balaam for Israeli sexual incontinence.

Moses and Genital mutilation:

Exodus 4:24 — this story has Moses reluctant to return to Egypt to save the enslaved Israelites. God takes ages to persuade him and convince him that he could do it. He gives him a sacred staff and his assurances of his support.

Moses and his Midianite wife leave for Egypt. Later at the inn God turns up unexpectedly and he is really angry and wants to kill Moses (reason not explained). Zipporah, Moses wife, immediately gets a sharp stone and cuts her son’s foreskin off and throws it at the feet of Yahweh. (A sharp stone? Didn’t she know that this was the Bronze Age?) This calms, the very ‘human’, God and the story continues. Verses 24 to 27 are an obvious insertion. We would have to ask ourselves why? What was Ezra trying to achieve by inserting such a ridiculous and obvious forgery? The most obvious answer is to inculcate the practice of male genital mutilation. If this were the case then it would support the assertion that male circumcision replaced the original demand of the Yahwist cult for the sacrifice of all first born children.

Modern commentators struggle with these insertions and try to explain them away by creating their own narrative but that is just making up your own bible. Many evangelical scholars begin by saying that this is a story about ‘sin’ or that Zipporah disobeyed Moses and she had not had the child circumcised but such nonsense gets us into even more of a philosophical pickle. Did God suddenly get a memo from Moses’ paediatrician? An omnipresent God suddenly got information that he didn’t have a day before?

And here we get to the crux of our issue, we must be very careful of the stories we tell. Like the woman who was propositioned by a billionaire. He asked her if she would sleep with him for a million pounds and she agreed. He smiled, lit a cigar, and said, “Great! Now that we’ve agreed the principal, let’s talk about price!”

Are we really comfortable with a Christian minister smilingly saying that murder and child genital mutilation are an appropriate response to disobedience? The stories of Moses and the foreskin are funny but the principals are dangerous. Human beings adopt moral principles based on story and image. The images in the Old Testament of racial genocide, child murder, human or animal sacrifice form an amoral framework, which can justify the most horrendous atrocities and suffering.

To read them as the inerrant word of God or to justify the immoral assertions of our Judean fundamentalist is to invite in the darkness. This evil has tormented our planet for the last two thousand years. Surely by now we are better than that?

But I digress, so to return to our narrative, when Rome invaded Judea in 63 BC, the Empire became infatuated with all things Jewish. Stories circulated the Empire of Jewish mystics.

Jewish religious teachers were all the rage in Rome but the sociopolitical situation in Judea was extremely complicated. In Jerusalem, the Judean religious fundamentalists had taken over a hundred years prior to the Roman invasion. Ostensibly the goals of the rebellion were the purification of the temple, but contemporary accounts and the archaeology would suggest that it was a case of a minority of Judean religious fanatics imposing their will on the majority of Hellenised Jews. Just as two thousand years later, a minority of Cuban terrorists imposed a brutal communist regime on Cuba in 1959 AD.

Suffice to say that Judean fundamentalists used violence to enforce their view of what it meant to be a Jew. During the Maccabean rebellion of 164 BC, Judeans killed their own people for not being Jewish enough and forced non-Jews to convert at the point of a sword. Sound familiar? The one thing that the Judean elites hated was Greek culture.

The Greek Seleucid Empire had always supported Jewish culture and institutions until the deposed Judean High Priest staged a violent coup for control of the Temple sacrifices. The Seleucid King, Antiochus IV, was on campaign in Egypt and a rumour had reached Jerusalem that he was dead. Jonathan the Judean High Priest didn’t waste any time, and with a force of a thousand Sicarri he made a surprise attack on the city. The resident High Priest managed to escape during the ensuing citywide riots. Modern day scholars now admit that this was a civil war between orthodox and reformist parties in Judea and not the noble rebellion it was made out to be; the Seleucids, like the Romans two hundred years later just got in the way.

Predictably enough, the leaders of this fundamentalist violence soon made themselves kings. Simon Maccabaeus was the first in the line of Hasmonean kings. Just before the beginning of the first century, the Hasmoneans had a problem. A native of the land of Edom, a man named Antipater the Idumaean, a Jewish convert, had gained the ear of Julius Caesar and had gained power under Hyrcanus II. He founded the Herodian dynasty.

His son, Herod the Great, was named Tetrarch by the Roman General, Marcus Antonius. Eventually Herod would become King of Judea by killing what was left of the Hasmoneans (Maccabean). Just as any history of Spain, written by the Left, paints Franco as a monster, the Judean fundamentalists painted a picture of the Herodians that defies the facts and the physical evidence. In a country infected by the virus of religious fanaticism, anyone who can bring peace is a good thing, not that you could admit that in public.

***

Ref 1:

The book of Daniel and several tablets found in digs near the gates of Babylon detail how well the Judeans were treated whilst in Babylon. The kings were allowed to retain their titles and status. Ezra is the first book of the Old Testament, which refers to Israel as synonymous with Judah. It is evident that by the time of the return from exile, the Judeans had coagulated their supremacist and nationalistic dream into a vast Judean Empire now called Israel. In this myth, the cultic centre of Israel had always been Jerusalem.

Ref 2:

Cyrus the Great reigned 539-530 BC then Cambyses II, Bardiya, Darius I The Great 521 BC to 486 BC, Xerxes I the Great, Artaxerxes I Longimanus 465-424 BC. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/list_kings_of_babylon)

[]CHAPTER 5

[] The Rise of Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular Indian dish in the UK and it isn’t even Indian, it’s an English fake based on tinned tomato soup. If you visit an Indian restaurant in Spain you will find that the curries aren’t even hot; the Spanish don’t like their Indian food too spicy. People who really know Indian food wouldn’t visit an Indian restaurant in Glasgow or Malaga. So why are foreign restaurants all over the world so popular?

Ignorance of a culture allows us to remake it in our own image. We can enjoy the strange without having to actually adapt to it. In England, during the Victorian era, Indian art and culture became the height of fashion. Queen Victoria even learnt to speak Hindustani although she never once visited the country. The Victorian British just couldn’t get enough of all things Indian. In the first century, the Romans were in love with all things Jewish mysticism. Jewish exorcism and prophecy made for good entertainment.

Just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 68 AD, as the Jewish revolt was moving toward its inevitable bloody end, Judean cities were falling one by one. Jewish fundamentalists, in order to save their own necks, were climbing over each other to apply the sacred Jewish ‘Star Prophecy’ to the nearest available Roman authority. Yoseph ben Matityahu was the commander of the Judean forces in Galilee. After the disastrous siege of Yodfat, Yoseph manages to convince the Roman Commander that he, Vespasian, would be the next Messiah, ruling over the world. Aware that such a prophecy might carry political weight in Rome, Vespasian spared the Judean commander but kept him as a prisoner of war. After the death of Nero, Vespasian was crowned Emperor largely based on Prophecy. In return, the fast talking Judean got himself a nice job as pet Jew to the Roman Emperor. Yoseph, now became famous as Titus Flavius Josephus, the Jewish/Roman historian. He set about writing a Roman best seller, ‘A history of the Jews’. The rise of Vespasian to the rank of Emperor is a perfect example of Roman gullibility in the face of Jewish mysticism and prophecy.

Jewish religious belief in the first century was extremely diverse. After five hundred years, the Judean fundamentalists had separated into various schools of thought. Ironically, by the beginning of the first century, the previously fundamentalist Hasmoneans, whose priesthood were known as the Sadducees, were now seen as the voice of orthodoxy and held in contempt. It was the Pharisees, Zealots and the Sicarii who were now at the heart of Judean nationalism.

The Samaritans were separate from both Judean and Israeli belief and stubbornly maintained that the Judeans had forged the books of Moses. Conversely, the Israeli view of God seems to be expressed by the school known as Essene and was represented by James the Just, the brother of Jesus. There is a good case for the Jewish Nazarenes being an offshoot of the Essene movement.

For the Herodians, who were trying to rule over this cultural and religious chaos, it must have been like herding cats. Both the Bible, and Judean history, has painted Herod and his son, Antipas, as monsters but the archaeological and socio-economic evidence suggests a very different interpretation. History would suggest that there is no gentle way to deal with civil war and we are beginning to see, in the modern world, the results of appeasing religious fundamentalist. The Judeans gave the Herod dynasty a bad press and I would imagine there was no love lost between the two.

Imagine asking Osama Bin Laden to write a biography of President George Bush; just how accurate do you think it would be? All we know of Herod the Great comes from Josephus, our cunning but cowardly fundamentalist. It is extremely likely that the gospels used Josephus for their historical context. Judean religious fundamentalist had been fighting against the Hellenisation of their country for three hundred years and Herod represented progress and the modern world. Herod meant education, freedom of thought and religion. In short, Herod stood for everything that Josephus had been fighting against.

The Gospel of Matthew extrapolates on Josephus’ invective and has Herod slaughter all the children in Bethlehem by way of implying that Jesus was the Messiah. The fact that Matthew totally misunderstands the implications of the Hebrew poetry, ‘Beth-lehem Ephrathah’ is supported by two other gospels, which both elect to have Jesus born in Nazareth and ignore Matthew’s geographic forgery. We will explore Matthew’s ignorance of the Hebrew language and culture in chapter 8.

Ignoring Josephus and the gospels, the historical truth is so much more interesting and important for an understanding of the genesis of the New Testament. After hundreds of years of civil war, when Herod the Great became King of the Jews in 40 BC, Judea was, as usual, being ripped apart by random violence and religious fundamentalism. Herod’s father had been murdered by a Hasmonean assassin. The Parthians from Assyria had invaded Judea and a significant section of the Hasmonean dynasty was supporting them. The Hasmoneans had killed and mutilated Hyrcanus, the King, and had come for Herod. He fled Jerusalem, with his family, under cover of darkness and managed to escape and persuade the Romans to repel the Assyrian invaders and their Jewish supporters.

Herod’s father had served Hyrcanus faithfully; it seems natural, therefore, that Herod married the King’s daughter after his death. Despite Josephus’ libel, it is known that Herod deeply loved his new wife. Whilst it was a fact of Jewish political life that Herod was forced to work with the Jewish fundamentalist Hasmoneans, one can’t help but be sympathetic with the caution Herod displayed to his in-laws. One can imagine having to marry one of the daughters of Osama bin Laden, it would not be conducive to deep sleep.

People who knew Herod spoke of his greatness of spirit. His rule brought two decades of prosperity and peace. His court was full of scholars, architects and artists. He gave generously to his subjects in times of famine and natural disaster. The citizens of Olympia made him president of the games in return for his lavish philanthropy. He built the world’s first artificial deep-water harbour at Caesarea. Josephus gleefully made much of Herod’s final illness, running through the book of standard Jewish curses, which he elaborated with imaginative detail.

When Herod the Great died, he was placed in a golden bier draped in royal purple. His family were at the funeral. He was buried in state by the people that obviously respected him. His grave remained untouched until the Judean fanatics, once again, took over the country for yet another pointless round of bloodletting.

The Herodians took a country that was stuck in the fifth century BC and brought it kicking and screaming into the first millennium. Their dynasty virtually rebuilt the country with new cities, roads and irrigation. Modern left-wing commentators have speculated that these new cities meant more oppression for the peasants but this is to ignore economic reality; more cities and people meant more markets and customers for the goods and produce of Judea. The Herodians brought in twenty years of full employment. It is somewhat ironic that Hezekiah and the Judean supremacist dreamt of a great Judean Empire with Jerusalem as its capital. While Judean efforts largely revolved around random religious violence and animal sacrifice on an industrial scale, the Herodians did more to achieve that Judean dream than any dynasty since the House of Omri in Israel proper.

So much for the official history.

At the beginning of the first century, within this cultural maelstrom, a Galilean Rabbi became famous for offering an alternative to the cult of animal sacrifice. He taught in the wilderness but still managed to draw huge crowds. He is even respected by the Judean fundamentalists. His name was Yohanan. We have come to know him as John the Baptist. When he was executed, one of his students took over as leader of the movement, his name was Yeshua bar Yosef, you may know him as Jesus.

It has become fashionable to deny the historicity of Jesus but, in actual fact, we have more evidence for the life of a historical person upon whom Christianity is based than many of us do for our own great-grandparents. We don’t have space here to do the subject of the historicity of Jesus justice. For those readers who would like to read more, I would refer you to my book, “The True Sayings of Jesus.” As a summary, the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar reviewed this question and concluded the following:

The Jesus of history did not refer to himself as God or as the Messiah. He did not claim to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. These claims were made a long time after his death by other people.

The core of his message was a vision of life under the reign of God, in which God’s generosity and goodness is regarded as the model and measure of human life. Within the Kingdom of God all living creatures are equal.

Jesus of history did not hold an apocalyptic view. He did not believe in the Last Days and Final Judgement.

When a saying is self-referential, self-aggrandising, or breaks the above criteria it can be discarded. For instance: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’.

Sayings which deal with issues in the early Church, frame a new point of the evolving Christology, or refute some of the emerging challenges to the Church of the second century, all of these can, of course, be discarded.

For instance:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church’.

The dichotomy between the Judean fundamentalist and the Nazarene School was crystallised in the way they approached God and what they believed him to be. In Galilee the people went out to the deserts and wild places to speak to God directly. Religion in Galilee was a private affair. So how did we get from a Galilean Rabbi to the Christian Church?

Just as Chicken Tikka Masala has very little to do with native Indian cuisine, what we now call ‘Christianity’ has very little to do with Nazarene Judaism or the teachings of the Jesus of history. Christianity is a Greek mystery cult with a thin crust of Jewish culture and it was a dish specifically created for Roman consumption. The author of this literary confection knew nothing of the Nazarenes and had never met the man on whom he would base his cult.

Christianity is almost entirely built on the letters of Saint Paul. It was Paul who gave us the unbiblical concepts of ‘original sin’, ‘salvation through belief and ‘faith without works’. These Christian concepts are totally foreign to Hebrew thought and are not supported by the Old Testament, which is why Paul had to take his quotes out of context or mistranslate them.

All we know of Paul comes from his letters and the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ (more appropriately named, ‘Acts of Paul’). Unfortunately, Acts is as historically accurate as a Walt Disney film about Robin Hood. The gospels reflect Paul’s theology as it evolved over three hundred years and it is obvious that they were written to support his cult.

To understand the rise of the Christian cult you have to read Paul’s letters. Unfortunately, very few people read Paul’s letters in their entirety. People tend to pick passages and assume that the rest of the letter makes some kind of sense. To read one of Paul’s letters is to look into the darkness of the abyss. If you follow his logic, it soon becomes obvious that he was both a genius and totally insane. Before Paul became a saint he was known as Saulus and he was a Herodian and a Roman citizen.

For a Judean there was only three ways to obtain Roman citizenship: be part of Herod’s family, military service or buy it from a Roman official. Paul himself tells us that he was a Roman citizen by ‘birth’ therefore, it is extremely likely that Saulus was a member of Herod’s family.

I agree with Professor Robert Eisenman that Josephus is referring to Saint Paul (Saulus) in Antiquities of the Jews: “Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favour among them, because of their kindred to Agrippa; but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves.”

In Romans 16:11 it is very clear that Paul refers to the Herodians as ‘kinsman’. So what does it mean if Paul or Saulus is a Herodian. What did Saulus teach? We have explored the difference between the Israeli and Judean religious belief. Both of these see God as one. Both of these religious approaches are focused on this life and how we live it.

The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, on the other hand, had a different view. Saulus had grown up in southern Turkey and was familiar with the Greek cult of Mithras. Mithras had sacrificed himself to himself to save the world and was born in a cave. Greek mystery religions offered magical power in return for levels of initiation. This was the world that Saulus had grown up in.

The Church assumes, as does anyone reading the letters of Paul, that Paul was a practicing Jew and that his philosophy must, at least, be grounded in Jewish thought. Close investigation of Paul’s letters reveal this to not be the case. Saul of Tarsus was entirely pagan in his thinking although he may have been a Judean by blood or conversion.

To get a feeling for who Paul really was, let’s look at one of his most famous quotes. Paul’s letter to the Romans is often used to defend the unbiblical doctrine of original sin. The following quote from the letter is used:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:10

This is a misquote of Psalm 14 and when you actually read the entire Psalm it is obvious that the writer is only talking about a specific group of people, not all of humanity. It refers to the Babylonians and this piece was obviously written during the Judean’s captivity in Babylon. The rest of the Psalm allows for the ‘Righteous’ to side with Israel and the poor.

As another example Paul says:

“As it is written, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence and whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 9:33

Paul quotes this in order to underwrite his doctrine of ‘belief’ in exchange for ‘salvation’. The problem is this is not what is written at all. He is quoting Isaiah 8:14 but what the Prophet is actually saying is the opposite:

And He (The Lord of Hosts) shall be for you (Isaiah) a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and many among them shall stumble and fall.”

Isaiah 8:14

Saul used just enough Hebrew mysticism to give a Jewish spin to his cult. His fabrications are just too clever for them to be anything but a fraud. Paul’s literary technique is to create a philosophical or logical ‘straw man’ and then lead his audience through a dizzying list of related images. Numbed by a wall of words, the reader eventually abandons all logic. It is at that point, Paul hits them with the ‘straw man’ as proof of his secondary argument.

In Corinthians 15:3 Paul claims that the Jewish texts predict the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ Jesus but this is just not the case. On nearly every philosophical point, Paul contradicts the words of the Jesus of history. One of the great tragedies of history is the violence that Saint Paul did to the teachings of the Jesus of history. Paul’s central premise is that in return for ‘belief’ a secret power is given to his followers. This power is variously called ‘Saved’, ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘Grace’, ‘Justification’, or ‘Righteousness’. The terms are suitably vague and are effectively interchangeable.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:9

This idea of ‘belief’ in a ‘secret’ knowledge in return for a hidden power comes from the Greek mystery religions popular throughout the centuries prior to, and after, the life of Paul. It was Paul’s genius that he harnessed the Greek and Roman fascination with Hebrew mysticism in order to create his own cult. He did this by grafting a Hebrew veneer onto a popular Greek mystery religion called Mithraism.

‘Saint’ Paul took the legends of the famous Rabbi from the Nazarene movement and created his own Greek mystery cult. Professor James D. Tabor (Ref 1) outlines the fundamental points of Paul’s new cult:

The elect will receive a new spiritual body

This new genus of spirit-beings will rule over the world

Ritual purity became a mystical union with the cosmic Christ

The end of the world would happen in Paul’s lifetime

The new Torah of Christ (Paul) supersedes the Jewish Law

Paul was the only apostle who knew what was going on

These observations beg the question, ‘if Paul made this up, why is Christianity a worldwide religion and the teachings of Nazarene Judaism are not?’ The answer is complicated: the death of James the Just who was the brother of Jesus, the rise of Rabbinical Judaism and the destruction of Judea by the Romans.

After the death of Rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus), Ya’akob (James the Just), his brother, took control of the school and, like most Jewish schools, they had a base in the Temple. We know of Ya’akob’s death from Josephus and from the Pseudo Clementine Homilies. With his death in 62 AD there was no one who could stand up to Paul.

In 70 AD, Josephus’ rebellion had failed and the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. In 132 AD the Judeans rebel again, but this time Judea is destroyed and all Judeans banned from entering Jerusalem. The Emperor Hadrian renames Judea to Syria Palaestina. This is how the area came to be known as Palestine. With the destruction of Judea the Judean Pharisees migrated to the north and created several universities. This was the beginning of Rabbinical Judaism.

With the destruction of the central authority for Nazarene Judaism and the unifying force of Rabbinical Judaism, the way was clear for Paul’s cult to thrive. As the centre of activity moved west towards Rome, the literary triumph of Christianity over the teachings of its icon was complete.

In the next chapter we will discuss the final codification of both the Jewish scriptures and the books we now call the Bible.

***

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p<>{color:#000;}. Paul and Jesus: James D. Tabor.

[]CHAPTER 6

[] From a Roman to a Christian Empire

In 62 AD, with the death of James the Just, Nazarene Judaism had lost its central authority. Around that time, after causing a violent riot in the Temple, a man named Saulus was rescued by the Roman military. He is sent, under protective custody, to the Jewish King Agrippa II, whose court was in the northern coastal city of Caesarea. It is possible that Saulus now becomes Paul. After a period of house arrest in the royal palace, he is released and sent abroad. Acts states that he went to Rome but Paul’s own letters do not confirm this speculation, which is odd.

By 70 AD, at the time of the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans and the destruction of the Temple, there are groups of Paul’s Christians all over the Empire. There is very little physical evidence for Christianity in the first two hundred years, so what we do know only comes from literary sources. The theological history of Christianity is a bit like a pyramid; in the beginning it was extremely diverse in belief and practice, but as the years pass it becomes more and more uniform until the middle of the second millennium when it begins to diversify under the pressure of the Reformation.

With the rise of Rabbinical Judaism over the next four hundred years, Jewish thought is finally united under the Pharisees. All traces of Israeli belief disappear on pain of excommunication. Nazarene Judaism survives, in one form or another, but is scattered all over the known world and lacks central direction.

The eventual unity of Christianity was not an accident of history; it came at a terrible price. It is true that Christians suffered some persecution from the Romans during its first three hundred years, but this was due to the fact that Christianity was inherently politically subversive. The Romans had always been extremely tolerant of other people’s religions, the problem that the Roman State had with Christians was political. Christians refused the divine authority of the emperor and, like modern day suicide bombers, desired martyrdom more than life. This pernicious belief was destabilising to the Empire and could not be tolerated.

So after three hundred years of sporadic persecution, Christianity finally made it to the big time. In 313 AD the Roman Emperor, Constantine, issued the Edict of Milan finally providing Christianity the protection and approval of the state. You would imagine that as the Christians gained political power that the Roman Empire would grow more tolerant and peaceful, unfortunately, you would be wrong, it was the reverse.

In 325 AD, Emperor Constantine called the first council of Nicaea. Eighteen hundred bishops were invited but Eusebius, the Roman historian, noted that only two hundred and fifty attended.

Early Christian belief assumed that Jesus ascended to God when he was resurrected. Later it was thought that he became one with God when he was baptised. The council of Nicaea voted, to refute the Arian Heresy and insist that Jesus had always been God and was always equal to God; this must have come as a shock to his family.

Hosius of Cordoba was the Emperor’s ear in Nicaea and had the greatest power in the council. There was no Roman pope in attendance, which you would think rather strange. It appears that Christianity at this point was widely diverse.

One of the first Popes of note was Damasus the first (366 AD). He was called ‘Pope’, albeit in a rather derogatory way, which might have something to do with the violence with which his supporters dispatched his opponents to hell when he acquired his position. In fact, as Christianity felt more secure, the violence increased, and when I say ‘violence’ we are talking ISIS on steroids. Constantine issued orders that all other religions, and in particular the Jews, would have their property confiscated, their temples pillaged and pagan sacrifices were banned on pain of death. When Constantine died things calmed down a bit. Paganism was relatively tolerated until the Bishop of Milan, Ambrosias, persuaded Emperor Theodosius to reinstate the pogroms. In 391 AD Theodosius issued the Theodocian Decrees and the violence really took off. This is how Christian unity was achieved, with blood and violence.

Augustine was an Algerian Roman and a student of the blood thirsty Bishop Ambrosias. To justify his own sexual appetites, Augustine created the concepts of ‘the devil as a rival to God’ and took the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’ from Paul’s ramblings in his letter to the Romans. It seems incredible that none of these Christian theologians ever bothered to ask the Jews what their own stories meant? Looking back, it seems so racist and arrogant.

That being said, Augustine’s most lasting contribution to history hardly ever gets a mention, the doctrine of ‘Error has no rights’. This single doctrine is responsible for more horror and death than any fictional devil could ever be. The Church has used this doctrine to justify the torture and murder of anyone who disagreed with them.

If someone refused to conform to the latest theological fashion dreamt up by the Church, they were condemned as being in ‘error’. With Augustine’s statement that ‘Error has no rights’ any cruelty or evil against that man was now justified.

Augustine could not read or write Greek very well and relied on his friend, Jerome, for translation. It was the idiot Jerome who made some of the most famous mistakes in Hebrew translation, which we will explore later. Augustine and Jerome, the diabolical duo, justified their unbiblical doctrines by misquoting and mistranslating the Jewish Tanakh. Augustine taught that ‘Great violence’ was justified against unbelievers. As the heir to the psychotic Paul, Augustine single-handedly gave birth to the inquisition and anti-Semitic violence.

A famous Christian teacher from Britain called Pelagius publicly disagreed with Augustine’s doctrines of Original Sin and insisted that God gave man ‘free will’. Augustine used all of his political power to have Pelagius condemned as a heretic, which in the end, by appealing to the Emperor, he managed to do.

Augustine had been a follower of the Prophet Mani and believed that this world was inherently evil and must be transcended. In this cult, complicated esoteric knowledge brought secret power to its adherents. As with most of these dualistic cults, the world of the everyday life was seen as a product of evil. It is evident that Augustine’s doctrines and his behaviour was entirely a product of this dualistic philosophy.

As a practical example of Augustine’s philosophy put into practice, let’s look at the gruesome murder, in 415 AD, of the Greek mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia. Cyril was the Bishop of Alexandria and Orestes was the Roman prefect. Cyril was determined to create an effective theocracy and wrest power from the weak Orestes. Cyril kept an order of monks as an ecclesiastical bodyguard. The Parabalani had originally been formed to care for the sick. Drawn from the lowest classes and accustomed to violence, the Church leaders soon found new uses for these fanatics. After a concerted effort to expel Jews from Alexandria, Orestes only remaining ally was Hypatia. Cyril’s bodyguard monks pulled her from her chariot, stripped her naked and beat her to death with roof tiles and ripped the skin from her bones. They then dragged her body through the streets as a warning to everyone who dared to challenge Cyril. Like Augustine and Jerome, Cyril is now a Saint.

The Christian doctrine, and the gospels that support it, were born within this cauldron of ignorance and violence. To many people involved in the Church it was just a business but to some, like Pelagius, it was an expression of their inner most understanding of the world. As a side note, in two thousand years, this dichotomy has still not really disappeared; while researching this book I actually came across essays by prominent church leaders who justified the murder of Hypatia on the grounds of her age. Evil is ever thus!

Silvanus, a noted Church historian from southern Gaul wrote in his work, ‘On the Government of God’:

Since then we see practically no group among all the Christians, no corner in all the churches, that is not full of all manner of offence and stained with every deadly sin, why should we beguile ourselves with the name of Christian? Assuredly our guilt is made the greater by this most sacred name, if we belie it by our conduct. The name of Christian aggravates our offences against God, since we continue our sins in the very bosom of the church.”

Salvian: On the Government of God: Third book.

The books that were eventually included into the Christian Bible were hotly contended. The Epistle of James the Just, written by the brother of Jesus, was only reluctantly included in the canon. Whilst Augustine may not have been the kind of guy you would have left your children with, he is notable for refusing to attribute evil to God. Reading his work it is obvious that his arguments are weak and often nonsensical, but he is to be commended for trying to keep the concept of God away from the philosophical sewer that the Church had become. Just as Augustine and Jerome diverted Paul’s Church toward the dualistic philosophy of the Gnostics, the world was to wait a thousand years for another two men of genius to take the Church on another journey that would lead to suffering, torture and death. The fathers of the reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin.

[]CHAPTER 7

[] Protestant Reformation

Saint Paul created a cult that was a gift to men of few scruples and for two thousand years it has been a gift that has just kept on giving. By the sixth century, the Church had realised that they were sitting on a goldmine; Paul created an abstract and imaginary illness called ‘Sin’, which then allowed the Church to get rich selling a meaningless cure. At the Council of Epone, in 517 AD, the Church formalised the idea of selling God’s forgiveness. By the middle ages, if you had enough money, you could buy yourself out of hell for twenty thousand years (I kid you not!).

For many, the Church had always been a business. Popes lived debauched lives and church offices were bought and sold. By the sixteenth century, they had pushed their luck too far. A German priest called Martin Luther had had enough. He posted a copy of his work, ‘Disputation on the Power of Indulgences’ on the door of his Church and started the Protestant Reformation.

For much of its history, the Church tried to ensure that ordinary people didn’t read the Bible. As Church doctrine became ever more divorced from reality and logic, it became vital to restrict access to scripture. Many of the doctrines of the Church can only be supported on a solid bedrock of ignorance. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German and encouraged his congregation to read the text. Naturally, after the Roman Church excommunicated him and refused him permission to enter heaven, he started his own Church.

Martin Luther took Paul’s ideas seriously. He insisted that only ‘belief’ was necessary for ‘salvation’. His doctrine of ‘At the same time, righteous and sinner’ was an incredible feat of insane logic. It allowed Luther to contend that humans had no free will and that we were pawns of the devil. Paradoxically, he also discouraged reason and logic. He believed that reason was the enemy of God. For Luther the only way to God was through blind belief.

Luther took Paul’s logic to the final conclusion, ‘If only faith was necessary for salvation, then it doesn’t matter what sins you commit, as long as you still believe in Paul’s formula you will always be saved’. Luther believed that the human conscience was the voice of the devil and must be resisted, and the best way to resist the conscience was to go out and commit the biggest sin you could.

In 1524 the German peasants revolted, many of them Protestants and followers of Luther. Cleverly he managed to stay neutral, but as the rebellion became a full blown war, Luther could see the writing on the wall. He depended on the aristocracy for his livelihood. He produced a booklet denouncing the peasants and inciting the aristocracy to give the peasants no quarter. Luther delighted in betraying his own people. He ordered the death of the peasants but blamed God.

Luther had let the cat out of the bag. All over Europe there was a movement that wanted a Bible written in their own language. The Roman and Orthodox Churches must have felt like they were under siege. Around the same time that Tyndale was producing his English translation direct from the Hebrew and Greek, a small and rather sickly boy was born into a middle class family in the French Cathedral city of Noyon. Jean Cauvin and his family suffered much at the hands of the Roman Church, his father was excommunicated before he died for not sending in his accounts. Cauvin’s brother was hung on a gibbet by the Church after he died for agreeing with Luther’s new reforms.

It was largely the inhuman actions of a corrupt Church that turned the young Jean into the monster we now know as John Calvin. It is ironic that both Luther and Calvin were created by the Bible, their world view and beliefs taken directly from its pages. It’s almost as though the Bible should come with some kind of mental health warning.

When John Calvin was only 27 years old he produced a book explaining how everybody in the history of the world had got God wrong. The ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ was a manual for the Protestant Reformation. It lays out clearly Calvin’s beliefs and they are obviously the product of a mind devoid of any true spirituality or connection to God.

Early in the sixteenth century, Calvin returns to the Swiss city of Geneva at the request of Ami Perrin who was the city’s commissioner. Calvin effectively created a theocracy to rival ISIS controlled Syria. Calvin dictated every aspect of the people’s private life. Even children were beheaded for breaking Old Testament commandments. Ami Perrin very quickly regretted his enthusiasm for the new religion but would not be in a position to challenge the new dictator for fourteen years. Eventually, Perrin led a movement to depose Calvin but failed, to his cost. It was Calvin’s plan to create the first Kingdom of God on earth. In the process he created hell.

Just like the High Sparrow in the series ‘The Game of Thrones’ Calvin was a genius. It is true that he created a civil authority but the reality was that the ‘civil’ authority was entirely his. If anyone was foolish enough to disagree with him, their punishment was certain. Jacques Gruet accused Calvin of being a heretic. Gruet was tortured and beheaded in 1547.

Pierre Ameaux was heard to openly denounce Calvin at a party. He was lucky enough to get away with public humiliation. He was paraded around the city wearing a hair-shirt and loudly had to beg God for forgiveness. Calvin’s final thrust was to make the poor man pay the courts expenses.

Calvin banned everything from sweets, music and dancing as works of the devil. Family members would report each other to the authorities. Geneva became a city ruled by fear. Protestant Scholar Galiffe reported that in a short period, ‘30 executions of men and 28 of women, 13 hanged, 10 beheaded, 55 quartered, 35 burned alive after being tortured’. Calvin gave the order that everyone in Geneva was to call him ‘Master’ or be punished.

The Spanish Physician, Miguel Servetus, as an opponent of infant baptism was keen to correspond with Calvin. Like many people he paid the ultimate price for thinking Calvin a friend. He made the mistake of commenting on Calvin’s ‘Institutes’. When Calvin received the returned book with annotations, he was enraged. He swore that if Servetus ever came to Geneva he would not get out alive. Foolishly, on the way to take up a teaching position, the Catholic renegade Servetus visited Geneva to see his ‘friend’ preach. Seeing Servetus in the crowd, Calvin had the Spaniard arrested. Miguel Servetus was a remarkable man and is credited for detailing the working of the circulatory system and the lungs. Despite his genius, he was flawed by his own Spanish naivety.

Calvin was determined that Servetus would receive the death penalty but was minded to allow a quick death. Servetus, unfortunately, gave way to his Spanish temper and insulted Calvin from his prison cell. From then on his fate was sealed. He was burnt at the stake but green wood was used and his annotated book was strapped to his chest. It took him thirty minutes to bake to death from the feet up. Calvin’s enforcer, Farel, kept up a constant barrage of preaching while the poor man died but Servetus gave up trying to reason with him and resigned himself to prayer. Many modern day Calvinists try to say that Calvin was innocent of this crime, but we have Calvin’s own words promising to kill the man before, his words on the day and his words some years after, all of them were full of pride in this execution.

In a letter to the King of Navarre, Calvin says, “Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels, who stir up the people to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.”

It may be that Calvin and Luther rode the Reformation wave or it may be that they were its architects. I suspect that once the Bible was out of the bag, chaos was inevitable. Both of these men were deeply troubled and divorced from any real spiritual connection. Only a man deaf to his own soul could have a child beheaded or watch a man who took you as a friend burn to death.

The Protestant Reformation, like a cancerous cell, went on growing and dividing and now there are over 33,830 denominations of Christianity in the world and nearly all of them are sure that everyone else is going to hell. So what are the fundamental beliefs of the Protestant Reformation?

In 1618, the followers of Calvin met in the Netherlands and created the Canons of Dort. The five canons of Dort form the theological basis for most of the modern churches. They believe that the following points are solidly based on the Bible:

Total Depravity: Original Sin has rendered all mankind incapable of doing anything other than sin.

Unconditional Election: God is not interested in anything in the person. His decision to ‘elect’ someone is entirely arbitrary. Many Calvinists take this to the next level and insist that God therefore sentences others to eternal damnation. This is often referred to as double predestination.

Limited Atonement: Jesus only died for the ‘elect’.

Irresistible Grace: there is no free will. Nothing you can do but obey. When god calls the elect you have no choice.

Perseverance of the Saints: no matter what sins you commit you cannot lose your salvation.

We will explore in the next chapter how the translations of the Bible have been twisted to suit the evolving theology of the Protestant movement.

****

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03195b.htm

J.B. Galiffe, Nouvelles pages d’histoire exacte, 1863, p. 60.

http://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/e034rpCalvin_Franca05.htm

[]CHAPTER 8

[] Contradictions in the Bible

We have seen that the Bible has evolved over three thousand years. Many of the earliest stories were based on oral traditions, which extend back to prehistoric times. The fact that we have such a book is, in itself, a small miracle. Many of the men, whose work has been shoehorned into this anthology, would not be considered by many of us to be ‘good’ men. Many of the views expressed are inherently evil. That the books of the Bible are not, in themselves, the inerrant word of God, is self-evident to any objective observer.

Many discussions on biblical contradictions focus on trivial and irrelevant points in an effort to score intellectual points. For example, atheists argue that in I Kings 4:26 it is stated that Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses and twelve thousand horsemen, whilst in II Chronicles 9:25 it is stated that he had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots. The atheists see this as proof of error, while the Christian apologists, like the lovable Kent Hovind, refute their observation by concluding that the stalls for the chariots and the stalls for the horses were separate for each and assumes that each chariot was pulled by ten horses. As someone who grew up with horses, I can tell you that a stable big enough to house forty thousand horses would leave an archaeological footprint over at least a kilometre square. You would be able to see the remnants of such a structure from space. If you know anything about carriages and wagons you would know that you don’t keep them in stalls. Such is the level of biblical debate in the twenty-first century — intellectual ping-pong; both the question and the answer are entirely focused on winning the intellectual argument and ignore the reality of human experience.

This book is not in the least interested in academic point scoring, certainly not with other people’s faith. I hope that I have successfully explained the context to the evolution of the books of Kings and Chronicles during the creation of the Judean state throughout the last half of the first millennium BC. It should now be obvious that these two stories are simply a people’s memory of the ancient Kingdom of Israel and its famous armoured chariots. Neither the Judean writer of Kings or the Judean writer of Chronicles thought that their work would be part of an anthology and neither were they writing history; they were writing Judean propaganda based on Israeli history.

In my opinion, to focus on these details is a distraction. What is of more use to us now, is the understanding of the history that these stories reflect and the ideas hidden within the texts. These last two chapters are only interested in detailing contradictions where they illuminate an important philosophical point.

The first thing we will look at is the idea that the New Testament Gospels are written by eyewitnesses and that their beliefs agree with Christian doctrine as expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Paul was not in the least interested in the Jesus of history. His Christology was entirely based on his own vision of a ‘risen’ Christ and his own pagan religious beliefs. As far as it went, Paul believed that Jesus was the physical son of Joseph and Mary.

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”

Romans 1:3 (KJV)

The writers of the Synoptic Gospels did not believe that Jesus was divine at birth. They believed that he was the physical son of Joseph and Mary.

There are two genealogies of Christ Jesus in the Gospels, one in Luke and one in Matthew, both of them are focused specifically on Jesus through his paternal line. Both of the genealogies contradict each other. Neither writer even knew who Jesus’ grandfather was; Matthew names him as Jacob and Luke names him as Heli.

Matthew is intent of proving Jesus has links back to Abraham, which gives Jesus a great Jewish twist. Luke proves Jesus genealogy all the way back to Adam, which gives Jesus more of a universal appeal to a Roman audience.

From these contradictions and omissions, we can deduce several things:

Paul and the Synoptic Gospel writers did not see Jesus as divine at birth. Although, Paul does tend to say anything to sell the ‘pup’ and contradicts himself constantly. It is always dangerous to use Paul as a datum for any logical point.

Neither Paul nor the Synoptic Gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the events of which they relate. They did not know the Jesus of history and, more importantly, neither did they know his family.

They did not have access to an original source written by someone who did know the Jesus of history or his family.

Whoever did write the Gospel narrative stories (we don’t know), which support the evolution of Pauline Christology; they simply made up stories to prove their points. The Church calls this use of false names ’pseudonymous’, but early Greek and Roman writers called it what it was ‘forgery’.

Another interesting point can be made if we look at the idea of Jesus’ divinity. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus does not claim to be divine. At the time these books were written the Church had not yet invented this idea. By the time Justin Martyr wrote his ‘First Apologia’, sometime around 150 AD, the idea that Jesus was a divine God miraculously incarnated was growing in popularity. In Mark’s Gospel, when specifically asked for a sign to prove his identity, Jesus replies:

Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Truly I say unto you, there shall be no sign given to this generation.”

Mark 8:11

But he answered and said unto them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall be no sign given but the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Matthew 12:39

The writer of the Gospel of John (possibly Irenaeus) has Jesus do nothing but give signs and confirm that he is God. In fact, the Gospel of John is full of nothing but long monologues in complicated Greek using the literary voice of the author; In the Gospel of John, Jesus does nothing but talk about himself as God.

Mark was the first Gospel to be written sometime after the fall of the second temple in 70 AD. In Mark, it is very clear that Jesus does not regard himself as God.

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, God.”

Mark 10:18

Many Christian apologists try to point out the references to ‘The Son of Man’ in the Synoptic Gospels and twist it to be some special term for ‘Son of God’ but this is to totally misunderstand this Hebrew phrase, ‘Ben Adam’.

‘Ben Adam’ is a term used in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel and both Prophets use the term to mean ‘Human’. Indeed, the word ‘Adm’ just means ‘Human’ in Hebrew. The references to ‘Son of Man’ as being synonymous with God are a later extrapolation of a Hebrew term for an ignorant Roman audience. The term is not used in the Q Sayings and when used in the Gospel of Thomas it is clear that it is a reference to ‘Human’ and is a word play reference to Ezekiel. For Matthew to try to use it as being synonymous with Mashiach (Messiah) it demonstrates that Matthew knew that his audience did not understand Hebrew or Hebrew culture and its mystical traditions.

We can deduce from the above points:

The Synoptic Gospel writers did not understand Jesus to be God from birth and pre-existent. This idea developed over a period of a hundred years and is expressed in the Gospel attributed to John.

The Jesus of history did not perform signs and neither did he believe himself to be God. It is also very doubtful that he believed himself to be the Messiah.

During his trial, in the Gospels attributed to Matthew and Mark, Jesus says very little. In John and Luke they can’t seem to shut him up. Considering that any trial would have been in private, how do the Gospel writers know what was said? Obviously they made it up to appeal to specific audiences.

Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke mention a virgin birth, both of these are based on an incorrect translation of the Hebrew ‘Almah’ from Isaiah 7:14. In Hebrew the word means young girl and refers to a child born as a Tzadik (a righteous man) as a sign to the sons of David. It is obvious that both Matthew and Luke have created a narrative to fit the Roman fascination with Hebrew prophecy in general and the book of Isaiah in particular. It is hardly likely that the writer of the first Gospel, Mark, would have left out anything as important as an immaculate conception. I would speculate that to a Roman audience accustomed to their political leaders becoming Gods, to repeat Paul’s claim that Jesus became God when he was resurrected would have been relatively unremarkable. By the time that the writers of Matthew and Luke pen their narrative stories, a more interesting story was required. The story of the Virgin Birth was born (pun intended).

Probably the most important story in the New Testament details the death of Jesus and his resurrection. The earliest copies we have of Mark end with an empty tomb at Chapter 16:8. In the original story a young man tells Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, that Jesus is not there. They say nothing to anyone. By the time we get to John, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone and then ran to fetch Peter and ‘another’ disciple. They find the empty tomb and have a chat with angels; in this story they tell everyone. Both of these accounts cannot be true but more importantly, we can see that the stories are just that, stories that have been extrapolated to suit a particular need of the author. They cannot be read as history.

We have already discussed the fact that the writer of Matthew didn’t read Hebrew very well. We have seen Jesus perform the circus feat of riding two donkeys at the same time thanks to Matthew’s over enthusiasm for Hebrew prophecy. I would suggest that the above should be enough to put you on your guard when reading the gospel stories. We have seen how Paul uses phrases out of context and lies about Hebrew scripture entirely twisting the meanings.

We have also seen how stories in the Old Testament have been edited to create a political and philosophical spin. From Balaam to Moses, the scribes did not flinch from changing their own history to suit their political agendas.

We have seen that the Old Testament was a product of several philosophical convictions, to look at all the contradictions would become tedious and I will not bore you with such a pointless exercise. However, I will leave you with probably the most interesting contradiction of the Tanakh: Genesis I, II & III.

Genesis I was written by the Elohist source and deals with the creation of the world. This story is extremely deep and contains complex word play in Hebrew. Within this story God creates both man and woman equally. They are not named.

Genesis II was written by the Yahwist source but already the literary character of Yahweh and El are becoming blurred. This story retells the creation of the world with a slightly different spin. This story is more interested in explaining the nature of good and evil from an extremely esoteric point of view. Christian apologists tend to defend all of the obvious contradictions by claiming that Genesis II is only talking about Eden but a detailed reading of the Hebrew will confirm that this is an error. A case in point is that God makes the first man and woman ‘again’ and this time names them. God tells them to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will die. The fact that when they inevitably do eat of the tree (not fruit/not apple) in Genesis III and God says in verse 22, “Behold the (Adm) man has become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever…

So was the serpent right? They didn’t die but they did get kicked out of the Garden.

From this investigation of Genesis we can deduce:

Genesis I, II & III are separate stories written by different people for different reasons.

Any contradictions between these three stories are there because the writers didn’t care. To them the differences were irrelevant. Each writer was only interested in their own message.

Humans were designed to be mortal. They were never designed to live forever.

Good and Evil can be understood as the difference between receiving for the self or receiving in order to share with God. To eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to choose the self over God.

There is no concept of Original Sin in Genesis. Banishment from Eden was a preventative measure not a punishment. The description of suffering always had a deeper meaning for Hebrews than the Christian interpretation conceived of.

We will leave biblical contradictions here. Five minutes on Google will list thousands of inconsistencies for you but they do not concern us here. We can very clearly see how the Bible has evolved and we have discussed some of the reasons why the stories are the way they are but we have not really discussed the Bible as a whole or what it might mean.

[]CHAPTER 9

[] The Bible should come with a Mental Health Warning

Just as you wouldn’t give a loaded gun to a child, looking at history, it is evident, that the Bible should come with some kind of mental health warning. From the Jewish Orthodox man who slew a child with a carving knife at a Gay Pride Rally in Israel, to the Roman Catholic Church who used the Inquisition to enforce religious unity, men have been using sacred texts to justify their own insanity for thousands of years.

We have become so familiar with the Bible that we don’t really take it seriously anymore. Unless one possesses a very balanced and grounded personality, the evidence suggests that reading either the Old or New Testament can cause irreparable damage to the mind.

It is true that there is a great comfort in believing absolutely anything without recourse to personal responsibility or common sense; I have been told by some biblical scholars that it’s like drowning in warm custard. Even today, the weak of mind and soul read the Bible and see only the reflections of their own minds. They read the words and see themselves justified. We only have to look at Calvin and Luther to see the danger of living life divorced from one’s God-given humanity and common sense.

In my narrative on the rise of Israel and Judah, I have purposely over simplified the dichotomy between the Elohist and Yahwist narrative in order to make, what I believe to be, an important philosophical and historic point. After three thousand years, the reality of Israel and Judah is so much more complicated than I had space to explain. There is a lot of anthropological evidence to suggest that the merging of these two views happened very early on. Genesis II as a Yahwist source can be directly traced to the Kabbalistic understanding of cosmology and our relationship with God, and it is obvious that it inculcates a very Elohist understanding of God despite the fact that it is a Yahwist source. What was vital for the reader to grasp was the realities of Hebrew belief prior to the rise of the Judean cult of animal sacrifice.

How we read the Bible and how we interpret the text says more about who we are as people than it does about the text itself. We can read the text of Genesis I and conclude that the first man was a prototype and that we are descended from Adam. You could use this as justification for all kinds of racism. Christians have read Genesis and condemned both God and Man.

The Judean cult of animal sacrifice and the books that justify its inhumanity gave rise to the monstrous philosophy of Descartes. Just as he denied that animals have a soul and regarded them as nothing more than robots, so Judean supremacists have similarly denied Gentiles an eternal soul.

That the Tanakh was ever translated into Greek was unfortunate; that it was appropriated by Christians and bolted onto their new cult was a disaster for the world. The God of fire and brimstone has fathered so many wars and acts of horror that they are beyond counting. I hope this little book might stand for a warning. The Bible should not be read lightly. It is an extremely dangerous text in the hands of the mentally and morally imbalanced.

That being said, I am not in any way anti-Jewish or anti-Christian. Each of the books included in the Bible were written as an expression of the belief of a particular people at a specific time. If it were not for the Greeks and Romans who fraudulently wrote the Christian gospels we would have no record of what the Jesus of history taught.

If Ezra and his devious scribes had not committed the oral tradition of the Hebrew people to a written text, would we now be discussing the idea of human rights and the sanctity of life; it is unlikely.

That we, now in the twenty-first century, have access to the sacred text of Genesis, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, the Q Document, and the Epistle of James is entirely thanks to the accident of time we call history. If it were not for the hopes, dreams and suffering of the Hebrew people, over a period of three thousand years, we would not have the book we now call the Bible.

 

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How History Created the Bible

  • Author: Antonio Sebastian
  • Published: 2017-01-25 15:35:12
  • Words: 20229
How History Created the Bible How History Created the Bible