Founder/s: debatable but I would say Saul of Tarsus (now known as Paul the Apostle or Saint Paul)
Approximate age: 2000 years
Place of origin: debatable; either Israel/ Palestine, modern Jordan, Syria* or Greek/Roman-occupied Egypt
Holy book/s: Bible
Original language of holy book/s: Aramaic or Greek
Demonym of adherents: Christians
Approximate number of current global adherents: 2,400,000,000
Place of worship name/s: church, kirk, chapel, cathedral
* This trail, going from Jerusalem (Palestine/ Israel) through Jordan to Damascus (Syria), is what’s known as the Road to Damascus, where Saul converted to Christianity. However, the New Testament was written in Egypt, which at the time was occupied by Greeks & Romans.
So who exactly was the man we nowadays call Jesus Christ?
As I mentioned throughout, his real name was Yeshua or Ieshua, Christ (translation of mashiah, anointed) being a title. He was a 1st century Judean, a blood descendant of King David (which is what 1st century Jews meant by ‘son of God’) and a zealous follower of Judaism, living during the time of Roman invasion of Israel & Judea.
However, there’s much more to the story than that. Much of Jesus’s real identity has been hidden and lied about in the entire history of Christianity, but artefacts are slowly uncovering it.
Back to the son of God part, even the modern New Testament itself makes no direct references to that. Jesus seldom if ever called himself that; most of the time he calls himself son of man. That was both a messianic title and a poetic way of saying human. The vast majority of the time it was other people calling Jesus son of God, not Jesus himself. Furthermore, the further back you trace the Bible these references become fewer and fewer. Even those earliest references are highly suspect, because it was common practice for authors to attribute words the characters would’ve said in the authors’ opinion! In fact, the text can be traced back even further to when Paul/ Saul first wrote his letters (ie. before the gospels existed) and be found to contain NO references to son of God at all!
In part 3 I mentioned he was a saviour, marked out (anointed) to save people. However, as a Judean living under Roman occupation and a possible member of the Zealots, he wasn’t out to save the world from sin & death. Just like all other Jews who’d fought and died during that time, he was trying to save the Judeans and Israelites from Roman rule and reinstate the old kingdoms of Judea & Israel!
And he was definitely not the only one. His messiah status made him a POTENTIAL fulfiller of the promise God made to king David in the OT. Many others before him came to fulfill it too, one of them being what the Hebrew Bible calls Yochanan the immerser. We know him as John the baptist. Potential messiahs needed to be plentiful because the Romans kept killing their asses!
Which leads me to another point. Compared to other people Jesus’s crucifixion was nothing special; crucifixion was a torturous execution method reserved specifically for enemies to Rome. In other words, a punishment for treason. In stark contrast to what Christians believe, the Jews had nothing to do with it. They never wanted Jesus dead (except the treacherous Sadducees); why would they if he was their saviour? And yes, contrary to what the Qur’an teaches evidence indicates Jesus was crucified. Though in the same vein as people who can’t accept Elvis is dead, some Jews believed he was raised up to heaven in a similar manner to Elijah. The gospels may have bought into this and got carried away; they all claim he survived crucifixion, escaped from his tomb (with help) and continued to live like an ordinary man doing ordinary stuff like eating, fishing & going for walks.
It’s important to note that while Jews used the term son of God freely, they ABSOLUTELY NEVER called anyone Lord except God. Not even their own leaders. Remember one of the anti-Roman movements was called ‘no Lord but God’. Paul’s followers, on the other hand, had no issue calling their leaders Lord, and Paul (being the creator of Christianity wanting to keep his congregations happy) got the ball rolling so Jesus became known as Lord.
Now on to his family. Today we’re led to believe the only family Jesus had were Mary, his “father in heaven” (Christian doctrine, obviously wrong), possibly Joseph and figuratively his disciples. However, when the NT is traced back in time through its older versions, it becomes clearer and clearer that he had many more family members around.
First it should be made clear that the Nativity story is pretty much all a lie, made up by the author/s of Matthew.
For example Joseph, Mary’s fiancé (husband according to some) who accompanied her to the manger in Bethlehem according to the Nativity, was not her fiancé. He only appears in the Nativity story but isn’t mentioned again, not even at the crucifixion! If this man was Jesus’s earthly father figure, why would he not be present at his execution? Especially since Mary was? It has been argued that he died some time beforehand, but the Bible doesn’t mention this. Strange. Cresswell argues that Joseph is really one of two things:
A non-existent figure inserted into the story to distract readers from the cover-up of Jesus’s real family, or
(more likely) not Mary’s fiancé but Mary’s dad. In other words, Jesus’s granddad! This is supported by an Old Syriac version of Matthew called Sinaiticus Palimpsest, a late 4th century 358-page long manuscript for members of the Eastern Church. Unfortunately this might be inaccurate as it’s a Syriac translation of Greek.
Also, this may be offensive to Christians, Muslims, Bahá’ís, etc. but Mary was absolutely not a virgin. She conceived Jesus in exactly the same way all other women do – by having sex with a man. Where did the virgin story come from? From the gospels again, specifically Matthew & Luke which used a prophecy in Isaiah that claimed a young woman would bear a son who’ll save Israel. Somehow the Hebrew word for young woman was mistranslated to virgin in Greek.
So if not God/ the holy spirit, who was Mary impregnated by? The synoptic gospel of John mentions the term “Mary of Clopas”. This could mean daughter or wife or mother, but St Jerome – on authority of Eusebius who quoted from Hegesippus – made the authoritative decision that Clopas was the husband of Mary’s sister (who was confusingly also called Mary*), making Joseph Mary mother of Jesus’s husband after all. But this caused problems for the immaculate conception myth, which may have led to Clopas’s name being glossed over or scratched out altogether. According to Cresswell, however, Clopas (in other versions called Cleopas/ Alphaeus, all Greek/Latin renditions of the Aramaic name Chalphai) is Mary mother of Jesus’s husband and therefore Jesus’s real father!
* Mary, or Mariam/ Maryam (ܡܪܝܡ) in proper Aramaic, was a common name. But two sisters being given the same name? A bit farfetched.
Through the older versions of the NT, we also find some interesting info on other members of his family. Acts 1:13 mentions
Mary the () of James and Judas () of James
Obviously words have been deleted. What words? Evidence suggests (mother) and (brother) respectively, though it’s been argued that James was Mary’s father. These words were deliberately deleted by the otherwise conscientious scribe A, who was copying from another flawed exemplar, then added back in by Ca (the boss corrector), then re-deleted by Cb2! Remember Cb2 made a habit of undoing Ca’s work.
All this means that James* was also a son of Mary and therefore Jesus’s brother. And since Judas was James’s brother, that also makes him Jesus’s brother. Yes, Judas was one of Jesus’s blood brothers! Knowing this, as well as the fact that Jews didn’t participate in the crucifixion, the betrayal-by-a-kiss story no longer makes sense.
* Jesus’s disciple James son of Alphaeus, as there was another James, son of Zebedee. When this line is traced back we see Zebedee was the husband of Salome, one of the women present at the crucifixion who also was Mary’s sister. This makes Salome Jesus’s auntie and James son of Zebedee Jesus’s cousin!
And that’s not all. Through careful reading of old NTs it emerges that Jesus had at least 4 brothers – James, Judas, Joseph/ Joses and Simon the cana (zealot). St Jerome’s interpretation of John, however, calls Joses & James his cousins and calls Salome Mary! No wonder Christianity is so confusing for many people.
And who’s Mary Magdalene, otherwise known as Mariam of Migdal/ Magdala?
Though the Bible doesn’t say such, she’s often seen as a harlot or prostitute whom Jesus forgave (and according to the end of Mark drove 7 demons out of her, not giving any explanation on how she had them in her in the first place). According to this site, this myth came about from a misreading of Luke. It speaks of an unnamed “sinful woman” who brought Jesus a flask of ointment and washed his feet with her tears, and she came to be identified with a Mary of Bethany. In the next chapter (Luke 8:2) Mary Magdalene is introduced, and by the 6th century the “sinful woman”, Mary of Bethany & Mary Magdalene were generally assumed to be one and the same person. However, the synoptic gospels clarify that this woman was Jesus’s wife!
Honestly this claim isn’t news anymore. Many people have been claiming Jesus was married. There’s a fragment of papyrus written in Coptic (an ancient Egyptian alphabet) nowadays known as the gospel of Jesus’s wife, line 4 reading … “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…” (rest of line missing). Obviously faithful Christians – too scared to admit that the saviour could’ve had sexual desires like a normal man – have denied it. Given the wholesale alteration of Christian doctrine throughout the ages (the reduction of accepted gospels to 4, switching of Jesus’s birthday to 25th December, blaming Jews for the crucifixion, believing in virgin births, holding asexuality/ eunuchism as a spiritual ideal, etc) I don’t find this Jesus’s-wife story especially hard to believe. In short, the 3 women who came to Jesus’s crucifixion were Mary (his mother), Mary Magdalene (his wife) and Salome (his auntie) – makes sense since they would’ve been significant figures in his life.
Funnily enough, though scribe A’s rant
was in good faith, scribe D had re-added in certain details of this part of the text regardless – Mark 15:47 to 16:1, those women saw Jesus being put into the tomb! Then Ca, seemingly not realising this, added it in again!
Some Christians in the past and present believe/d the original Bible can be reconstructed or discovered. Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort (collectively called Westcott-Hort, or WH) in the 19th century, for instance, spent almost 30 years creating a new NT using Vaticanus & Sinaiticus as sources. They worked on the belief that both came from an original source. Bruce Metzger also assumed the existence of an original but lost NT that analysis can tease out.
Yes. Evidence shows that as old as Sinaiticus & Vaticanus are, they’re not the original Bibles. Throughout and before the creation of both was a bundle of Jewish texts, evolving Christian mythologies and new versions, all of which led to a possible exemplar for both: P45 from the early 3rd century. Cresswell also describes an exemplar from the end of the 2nd century which contained all the gospels and possibly Epistles & Acts; I didn’t quite understand if this was the same as P45 or another. Either way, it shows both Vaticanus & Sinaiticus were written about a century after some earlier version/s.
So who was Jesus Christ? A Europeanised mythical figure, loosely based on an ancient Judean king-aspirant & anti-Roman rebel most likely called Ieshua/ Yeshua, whose birth, life & death were deliberately mis-recorded by Saul, a guy who had it in for the Jewish authorities and diluted Judaism’s many pedantic rules to win over polytheistic Greco-Romans who happened to have political, cultural & military clout.
Note that this post, as well as the 3 previous ones on the topic, are my own summary of the book. To get more detailed information on the subject, become a religious historian! Or read the book The Invention of Jesus, and see the appendices (pp. 293-346) for specific examples of mistakes made in Sinaiticus & Vaticanus.
Keep in mind I’m not and have never been a Christian so I was never raised on Bible stories. However, according to Christians & ex-Christians I’ve spoken to and my old RE lessons Jesus was:
born by parthenogenesis (virgin birth) in a manger in Bethlehem,
an only child,
a miracle worker,
the literal son of God and/ or God incarnate,
saviour of all humanity,
an unwavering pacifist, ever ready to forgive his enemies and stand up for the downtrodden,
hated and reviled by the Jewish authorities,
single and celibate his whole life,
betrayed by Judas,
crucified then returned to life three days later,
is still alive in heaven awaiting his heavenly father’s command to return to Earth and establish God’s kingdom.
With references galore and many other historians corroborating him, Cresswell shows that pretty much every single one of these descriptions is wrong. However, some of the contemporary account is true:
He was a Jew: This is a point Christians misunderstand or try to not dwell on; he was a Jew by “ethnicity” (usually thinking of modern European Jews like Ashkenazim) but had nothing in common with other Jews. This is false. The term Jew didn’t exist back then; there were Judeans (citizens of Judah/ Judea), Israelites (citizens of Israel and/ or descendants of the man Israel who used to be called Jacob) and Hebrews (more or less synonymous with Judean & Israelite but its true meaning is debated). Nevertheless, there was the law of Judaism which Judeans/ Hebrews/ Israelites adhered to – zealously, in Jesus’s case. In this article I’ll treat them all as synonymous with Jew.
He lived in the “Middle East”: Christians also like to gloss over this, but Jesus lived his whole life in what is now called Israel/ Palestine/ the West Bank (the yellow sliver in the pic below). In case anyone is confused, this is in southwest Asia, only on the opposite side of the Dead Sea from Jordan & Saudi Arabia. His native language was Aramaic so he probably would’ve called it something similar to the Hebrew word Yehuda (Judea/ Judah).
He was recognised as a saviour: but not for all humanity, and certainly not to save them from sin & death. In accordance with an Old Testament prophecy, as the messiah he was expected to free his people – FELLOW JUDEANS – from foreign occupation!
When Jesus was born just over 2000 years ago (year 0001 by our calendar, but by the Jewish calendar it would’ve been approximately 3761! Definitely not on 25th December) the kingdoms of Israel & Judea were being ravaged, ransacked and raided by Romans.
Everywhere Romans went they committed mass subjugation, persecution and carnage – England, Wales, France, Egypt, Germany, Carthage (Tunisia), Spain, Syria, Turkey, Judea, and more! This post is about the history of the Bible, however, so I’ll stick to Judea.
Not unlike the slave revolts of TAST-era America, Jews were fighting and dying for freedom from this disgusting state of affairs. Unfortunately the Romans were too well-trained, well-armed and experienced so they kept thrashing Jewish revolts left, right and centre. So the Jews became more hardline and split into different groups: Pharisees, Essenes, Sicarii (assassins!), Zealots (not much different to Sicarii, and Jesus might have been one), a “No Lord but God” movement, and others. However, there was a sellout group who helped the Romans – the aristocratic priest class Sadducees. The gospels mention one of them, king Caiaphas, who was scared the messiah might overthrow the Romans and said “it’s better for one man to die for the people than the whole nation to die” (John 11:50).
However, it wasn’t just the Romans the Judeans were concerned about. They also raised huge debates over what to do with other non-Jews who were coming into their fold. James* was an observant Jew so he said they should follow the whole of Moses’s law just like them. Saul, aka. Saint Paul, reckoned the Torah and its laws should be reformed, going so far as to claim even Jews didn’t need to circumcise their children anymore! This caused a massive uproar among the Jewish elders & High Priests, so much so he was called before them twice to explain himself, and on the second time a riot broke out!
* possible leader of the Jerusalem-based Ebionites, based on the Hebrew word evyonim meaning poor people. In Acts & Corinthians Saul/ Paul was asked to remember the poor – meaning collect funds for the Jerusalem community!
Paul gained many congregations in Turkey, Greece & Syria. Eventually his followers broke away to form a new sect, dubbed Christianity by some of his followers from Antioch, Turkey. This new religion took in many different aspects of Mithraism and other followers’ previous pagan faiths. These included the demi-god/ godman/ literal son of God* concept and veneration of 25th December (claimed as Jesus’s birthday since the 4th century).
* note: Jews originally coined the term son of God but they used it as a title referring to themselves as a whole, not to any one particular person! This was based on the OT in which God promises to treat King David and his descendants as his own sons (2 Samuel 7: 12-14) and to reward David like a firstborn son and establish his descendants as the perpetual rulers of Israel (Psalms). In other words, son of God = blood descendant of King David! To them it was fucking obvious they didn’t have godly DNA! But many pagan mythologies were addicted to the self-sacrificing & resurrected godman archetype, hence Jesus being crucified and resurrected for the salvation of the world.
The modern Bible is also wrong to say Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible makes it clear calling someone by their birthplace was not the norm; they’d be known by their job or relatives, eg. John the Baptist (job), Mary mother of Jesus (relative). Also, though there was a town in the region called Nazareth there’s no evidence Jesus was born or ever went there. Blame the gospel of Matthew for that lie. All the NT action is in Capernaum, where Jesus and his family spent most of their time. Older Greek texts also show he was never known as Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus the Nazarene/ Nazorean.
What’s the difference?
Nazarenes/ Nazoreans were not demonyms of Nazareth, as we may think from looking at the words. They were another hardline Jewish group, branches of David’s bloodline charged with bringing back the old kingdoms of Israel & Judea and guarding/ keeping to God’s covenant. It was literally in the name; natzar means to keep/ guard/ watch in Hebrew & Aramaic, and netzer means branch in Hebrew. Saul/ Paul used to be seen as a member of this group, and his new followers used to be known by this name (also briefly called Iessaeians/ Essenes). On a related note, Jesus’s disciple Simon was a cana (Aramaic for Zealot, one of the radical Jewish groups mentioned above) but modern Bibles call him Simon of the town Cana!
Ironically Epiphanius, 4th century Cypriot bishop and author of Against Heresies (original title: Panarion), considered Paul’s lot heretical to Christianity because they still followed some old Jewish laws!
As Christianity took off in the 2nd century, both Nazarenes and Ebionites were marginalised. Nazarenes were seen by Jews as heretics for failing to participate in another uprising (again foiled by Romans) in 132 AD, and it didn’t help that Paul was associated with them too. Ebionites were persecuted out of existence altogether.
A knowledgeable eye will notice, though, a contradiction. The gospel of Matthew invented the ‘Nazarene-means-native-of-Nazareth’ line but makes no reference to Nazareth! The 1st 15 verses of Mark do, and remember above I said Matthew was a copy of Mark. Why’s this reference not in Matthew, who would’ve needed it much more than Mark? Cresswell argues that Mark (at least the version Matthew copied from) didn’t have anything on Nazareth at first so that was added in later. Keep in mind when Matthew was written: Jewish rebels got their asses kicked yet again and were dispersed all over the land. They’d have used the word Nazarean/ Nazorean liberally in their conversations, and if any knowledgeable gentile overheard they could undermine Paul’s new faith. Hence Matthew reinterpreted Nazarene as meaning ‘of Nazareth’. Nevertheless, Jews knew what it really meant:
Nazorean/ Nazarene = militant Jew, keeper of God’s covenant, descendant of king David, potential fulfiller of prophecy to emancipate Jews & end foreign (ie. Roman) rule of their lands
In other words, Christianity is an anti-orthodox sect of Judaism created by Paul to appease pagans who were eager to convert to Judaism but still loyal to Rome. But though Paul founded Christianity he couldn’t control or predict how it would evolve throughout the centuries; in fact after his pagan followers brought in the godman archetype, he struggled with the question of why Jesus was God’s son. This is evinced by various epistles (letters) he wrote, recorded in the NT. He eventually settled on the resurrection, but Christianity of today claims it was by birth! See how things change?
(based mainly on Peter Cresswell’s The Invention of Jesus: How the Church rewrote the New Testament, ISBN 9781780285467)
That the Bible has been altered throughout history isn’t news. Muslims and secular historians, and even many Christians, have long since arrived at that conclusion.
However, the extent and types of change is much more far-reaching than generally known. Going by this book, pretty much the entirety of Jesus’s life & teachings have been altered by self-appointed scribes at many many many different periods in history – and for many reasons.
Though the book doesn’t go into the topic of ethnic appearance, Jesus definitely didn’t look like any of the below:
These images are all inspired by Renaissance/ Enlightenment-era European painters, and part of the zeitgeist of the era was for Europeans to gain (or regain) a sense of pride in their identity. Though it’s true Jesus can be and has been made to look all number of ways according to people’s tastes, the evidence indicates that his most likely appearance was that of the average native Aramaic-speaking Israelite of 2000 years ago. Since Aramaic is a Semitic language, and Semitic languages are part of the Afro-Asiatic language family, native Israelites would’ve looked like their linguistic cousins – ancient Egyptians and other (original) north Africans, Ethiopians & Eritreans, original Arabs and others. See below for modern examples:
Most people don’t realise his name wasn’t Jesus at all. Jesus is anglicised from Iesus, which is Latin for Iesous, which is Greek for the Aramaic Yeshua. It’s now generally agreed that Aramaic was the language he and his people spoke so this is most likely his real name. Oh, and Christ wasn’t a name of any kind let alone his name. It’s a title, anglicised from Christos, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Māshiah. It means anointed, as in smeared with substances (in this case holy anointing oil) to mark someone out as holy and/or royal.
The basic points from the book in summary are:
The Bible(s) we know nowadays is drastically altered from its original state, a process that started with Paul (who never actually met Jesus but did meet his disciples – and they didn’t like him) and continued centuries after him,
The alterations include deletions, additions, rewrites, rewrites of rewrites, corrections, corrections of corrections and more. Though there were undeniably many MANY MANY deliberate changes, there were also many accidental ones, ie. mistakes caused by plain old human error,
Not just the words of the Bible have been changed but so has the spirit, the message it was meant to convey. Jesus has been given a totally different character to what historical evidence shows, and important parts of his life are hidden/ denied,
This therefore means Christianity as we know it is not the “pure word of God”.
(to be continued in other posts)
For more detailed information on the topic, read the book at the top of the page. Also see Cresswell’s other works, including Jesus the Terrorist and Censored Messiah – both available on Amazon.
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