Friday, September 13, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter One]

Chapter One
The Biggest Lie

Almost two thousand years separate us from the events of the gospel and most people have difficulty time remembering what happened to them last week. Who should we trust to determine who the real Jesus was and why should we believe them? Our answer to that question in this forthcoming investigation will be surprisingly straightforward – forget about figuring who Jesus was. It is a lot easier to show who Jesus wasn’t. Everything we claim to know about Christianity – the religion of Jesus - is a big lie. The Catholic Church made Jesus and his teachings above all else – Roman – and even the most sincere attempts of Protestants to fix this problem have been to no avail. The corruption is now baked into the gospel, the New Testament and everything associated with Jesus.

In the years leading up to the rule of the wicked Emperor Commodus, the leaders of the Church effectively sold the soul of their religion in order to attain worldly rule. This opportunity presented itself owing to a seismic historical event on the distant shores of Alexandria, Egypt. Christianity as it was then would be almost unrecognizable to us today. It was not the religion as we now know it to be but something older and purer and above all else – more mysterious. Yet it was blamed for starting a massive insurrection in one of the most sensitive regions under Roman control which almost toppled the peaceful rule of Commodus’s father Marcus Aurelius the Emperor known as the ‘philosopher king’ because of his learning and wisdom.

A massive persecution was directed against these ‘original Christians’ in 177 CE – one which was especially severe in Rome and the Rhone valley in southern France. Our information about this persecution comes from a man who was intimately associated with both places, Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus has been called the “father of Catholic dogmatic theology.” He is a most mysterious figure, a Church Father who is known only through his writings. We don’t know where he was born; we don’t know when he died. All that is known about him is picked up from the scraps of information that come to us from the massive Against Heresies tome that survives in his name and the most vague biographical details from the fourth century historian of the Church, Eusebius of Caesarea.

In most stories about Christianity the names you hear bandied are Peter, Paul and Mary. Yet as we have just noted, the real story of how Christianity was formed is set over a century and half later. Irenaeus claims that he was part of a tradition, an apostolic tradition associated with the disciple John. John somehow managed to escape from Judea and wandered around the Empire before settling in Asia Minor, in what is now the coastal region of western Turkey. The cities and towns in this part of the world were Greek speaking. John, if he was a historical figure, probably spoke Aramaic. However an influential, but ultimately fabulous literary tradition developed that John made quite a number of converts among the Greek speaking population of the area including a certain Polycarp of Smyrna, the teacher of our Irenaeus of Lyons.

It is upon this rather shaky historical foundation that Irenaeus brings forward his claim to be an authority on the beliefs and practices of the original disciples of Jesus – i.e. an utterly non-existent ‘apostle John.’ Of course contemporary scholars never come out and say that this John ‘is a fake.’ They instead develop complicated scenarios where they posit ‘two Johns’ – one who was the disciple of Jesus and the other the John known to the circle of Irenaeus and that it was ‘confusion’ which caused these people to mistake their John for the John of Jesus.1 As we shall see there is a lot of this ‘confusion’ which apparently caused them not only to mistake lies for the truth, but actively promote them as part of their plan for world domination.

With this spurious claim to have met a wandering disciple on the highways of Asia Minor as the basis for his link to the apostles, Irenaeus set about to demolish all other traditions that came before him. He seized upon the misfortunes of the victims of the persecution in the south of France and writes a treatise condemning these Christians for being ‘heretics’ – a word that only been used in a positive sense by Christianity hitherto - “there must be schools (airesis) among you so that the trustworthy may be revealed among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19) In other words, the original Christians took these words to mean, set up lots of schools so that you can train lots of disciples, Irenaeus turned this word ‘heresies’ into a bad word, something which meant ‘wicked sectarians.’

It is hard to appreciate with how far removed Irenaeus was from everything that came before him. Christians originally had a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards people they disagreed with. Irenaeus changed all that. His actions in the late second century pulled the rug from underneath all that came before him and redefined Christianity for ages to come. As we just noted Irenaeus was very good and putting the words in the mouths of dead people. He wasn’t alone in this activity of course. There is a pseudepigraphal - an adjective developed from a fancy Greek noun which means ‘false writings’ – character to sections of the Biblical book of Isaiah among other texts. Even more glaring is the fact that Moses did not write the Torah but was written centuries after the events in question.

So when we say that Irenaeus engaged in the activity of ‘making up stuff’ in the name of other people he was by no means alone. Indeed Irenaeus specifically refers to the Torah example at one point in his writings and it is key to understand his entire worldview – “the Scriptures had been corrupted, and when, after seventy years, the Jews had returned to their own land, then, in the times of Artaxerxes king of the Persians, inspired Ezra the priest, of the tribe of Levi, to recast all the words of the former prophets, and to re-establish with the people the Mosaic legislation.”2 The understanding that the Torah was written in the fifth rather than the twelfth century before the Common Era may be controversial in the modern era, but it finds its way into that holiest of books in the Jewish tradition, the Talmud where it says that if the Torah would not have been given through Moses it would have been given through Ezra (Sanhedrin 21b).

Yet the reference in Irenaeus is slightly different for it not only accepts the idea that the Holy Spirit allowed Ezra to ‘channel’ a single work by a single author but “to recast all the words of the former prophets, and to re-establish with the people the Mosaic legislation.” This is an incredible miracle of what we might call ‘Biblical proportions.’ Let us contemplate for a moment what Irenaeus is suggesting. One human being living centuries after the deaths of numerous individuals can, by the means of the Holy Spirit, rewrite history as it were. This should above all else become the paradigm by which we understand Irenaeus’s own place in history. Irenaeus excelled at ‘making up stuff’ purporting to be written by holy men in former ages without any guilt or pangs of conscience.

It is extremely hard to fathom the depths of the psychology of such an individual and scholars rarely try. Irenaeus is for them "a passionate advocate of the Johannine authorship" but this same collection of writings was accused of being a forgery at the time he was active. The same holds true for the letters associated with Paul which he espoused. They too were accused of being forgeries. The gospel of Luke is similarly disputed as well as letters associated with prominent members of his circle of alleged circle of Johannine witnesses. Indeed the criticism here comes from a pagan witness to Christianity, that is, someone entirely outside of the usual interfactional disputes that existed with respect to this material.

“As to statues,” writes the famous pagan satirist Lucian after the death of a prominent Christian related to Irenaeus’s circle “I know that many will be set up right soon by the Eleans themselves and also by the other Greeks, to whom he said he had sent letters. The story is that he despatched missives to almost all the famous cities—testamentary dispositions, so to speak, and exhortations and prescriptions—and he appointed a number of ambassadors for this purpose from among his comrades, styling them "messengers from the dead" and "underworld couriers.”3 In other words, this hallowed tradition which suddenly emerges at the end of the second century is utterly fraudulent. There is no need to engage in prolonged debates about such matters because these crimes have already been established by many authors in many books long before us. 4

The problem is that Irenaeus’s corruptions are baked into everything that we’ve inherited from Christian antiquity. In order to lay them bare you have to smash the pretty picture of a neat apostolic succession that he has handed down to us and no one seems able or willing to do this. The investigation that follows is a first step in that direction building upon the foundation of ignored documents from outside of the circle of ancient believers which reinforce a basic theme of Christian collusion with the Imperial authorities:

The Romans reigned over them. The Christians (used to) complain to the Romans about the Jews, showed them their own weakness and appealed to their pity. And the Romans did pity them. This (used) to happen frequently. And the Romans said to the Christians: "Between us and the Jews there is a pact which (obliges us) not to change their religious laws. But if you would abandon their laws and separate yourselves from them, praying as we do (while facing) the East, eating (the things) we eat, and regarding as permissible that which we consider as such, we should help you and make you powerful, and the Jews would find no way (to harm you). On the contrary, you would be more powerful than they."

The Christians answered: "We will do this." (And the Romans) said: "Go, fetch your companions, and bring your Book." (The Christians) went to their companions, informed them of (what had taken place) between them and the Romans and said to them: "Bring the Gospel, and stand up so that we should go to them." But these (companions) said to them: "You have done ill. We are not permitted (to let) the Romans pollute the Gospel. In giving a favorable answer to the Romans, you have accordingly departed from the religion. We are (therefore) no longer permitted to associate with you; on the contrary, we are obliged to declare that there is nothing in common between us and you;" and they prevented their (taking possession of) the Gospel or gaining access to it. In consequence a violent quarrel (broke out) between (the two groups). Those (mentioned in the first place) went back to the Romans and said to them: "Help us against these companions of ours before (helping us) against the Jews, and take away from them on our behalf our Book." Thereupon (the companions of whom they had spoken) fled the country. And the Romans wrote concerning them to their governors in the districts of Mosul and in the Jazirat al-'Arab. Accordingly, a search was made for them; some were caught and burned, others were killed.

(As for) those who had given a favorable answer to the Romans they came together and took counsel as to how to replace the Gospel, seeing that it was lost to them. (Thus) the opinion that a Gospel should be composed was established among them. They said: "the Torah (consists) only of (narratives concerning) the births of the prophets and of the histories of their lives. We are going to construct a Gospel according to this (pattern).

Everyone among us is going to call to mind that which he remembers of the words of the Gospel and of (the things) about which the Christians talked among themselves (when speaking) of Christ." Accordingly, some people wrote a Gospel. After (them) came others (who) wrote (another) Gospel. (In this manner) a certain number of Gospels were written. (However) a great part of what was (contained) in the original was missing in them. There were among them (men), one after another, who knew many things that were contained in the true Gospel, but with a view to establishing their dominion, they refrained from communicating them.5

Our point here is not to ‘side’ with one tradition of how Christianity was defined during the reign of Commodus but to examine all of them and come away with a complete new reconstruction of the story of its origins. The adaption of the Jewish story of Jesus according to the taste of Gentiles actually occurred one hundred and fifty years before Constantine. This century and a half gap then represents the time it took for the new Imperial understanding to consolidate its authority upon the believers.

As we shall demonstrate over the course of this present work, against the oversimplification of ancient and modern conspiracy theories, there was in reality only limited involvement of the government in this process of reshaping Christianity. The actual vehicle for this change was something incredibly benign – the establishment of public libraries in the ancient Roman Empire. This is how the west was won. Irenaeus just woke up at the end of the second century and realized that the Christian identity could be transformed by simply taking secret documents out in the public eye. Indeed previous research has focused on the transmission of Christian documents in a private and entirely clandestine manner which is completely out of character for Irenaeus and his description of the ‘true Church.’

The connection that contemporary Christianity had with the court of Commodus was its association with the Emperor’s concubine, the notorious harlot Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias. She is identified in one manuscript tradition associated with Irenaeus as a ‘god lover’ (philotheos) a term usually only reserved for the highest ranks of the Hebrew pantheon of saints – i.e. Abraham and Moses.6 Commodus was basically willing to give Marcia whatever she asked for. At one point the bishop of Rome gave her a request for the release of some fugitive slaves condemned to work the mines which she granted almost immediately. 7 There were certainly many other examples given the Roman historian Dio Cassius’s statement to the effect that “she greatly favoured the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus.”8

As we shall see, Commodus didn’t merely co-opt the network of house churches around the seat of power in the Roman Empire, his influence totally transformed the essence of how Jesus was worshipped for the rest of world history. The fact that the influence of Commodus isn’t generally recognized isn’t saying much. This is a chapter in the development of Christianity which most believers would be very unhappy to remember. Indeed it is the first chapter in the story of the Church as they now know it and those pious scholars who come across the Marcia have tried many ingenious attempts to ignore what it plainly says. The inevitable objection that is raised is that it would be ‘impossible’ for a man of faith like Irenaeus to have had anything to do with these sorts of people. Yet there is ample evidence that we will bring forward that demonstrates the exact opposite.

Irenaeus’s theology is heavily depended on what we might call contemporary Imperial notions of Hercules. His student Hippolytus seems to bear a name which seems connected with Marcia’s traditional role as Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Irenaeus’s defense of King Solomon is very telling of what his contemporary attitude toward Commodus and Marcia was. He begins by citing the dictum of his teacher Polycarp to the effect that “the punishment in Scripture was sufficient for the ancients in regard to what they did without the Spirit's guidance” and goes on to say that despite his whoring with foreign women we shouldn’t condemn him because after all, he did a lot of good.9 In the same way that Solomon was accompanied by a ‘spiritual woman’ Irenaeus says that Jesus predicted that this ‘queen of the South’ would one day come back to judge the heretics:
The queen of the south, too, came to him from the ends of the earth, to ascertain the wisdom that was in him: she whom the Lord also referred to as one who should rise up in the judgment with the nations of those men who do hear His words, and do not believe in Him, and should condemn them [emphasis mine], inasmuch as she submitted herself to the wisdom announced by the servant of God (= Solomon), while these men despised that wisdom which proceeded directly from the Son of God (= Jesus).

It’s very hard not to get the sense that Marcia was being ‘foretold’ by this adulterated gospel reference – the ‘reference to the ‘Queen of the South’ was not in the gospels of early generation of Christians. Marcia is usually identified as being of Egyptian origin and Egypt inevitably is referred to as ‘the South.’10

The re-examination of the role that Christianity’s collusion with Commodus played in the development of our modern religion is essential to gain a better understanding of ourselves. As the great Australian Patristics scholar Eric Osborn explains, “Commodus was persuaded to treat Christians kindly by his mistress Marcia who viewed them with favour. Under Severus monotheistic disloyalty to imperial cult brought sporadic persecution, which in Alexandria was harsh in face of a triumphant Christian response … The state ceases to be neutral; its rejection of the Christian offer becomes as significant as the Christian refusal to comply with the requirements of the state. Only under Constantine, when state and church accept one another, is the conflict resolved.” 11

Yes, we can agree with Osborn. The cementing of what would become the traditional close relationship between Church and State was finally ‘resolved’ during the reign of Constantine. But if we liken this relationship to a marriage it was one which began ‘out of wedlock’ that is – as fornication – perfectly epitomized by the relationship of Commodus to his harlot queen. Christianity had a long and tempestuous relationship with the subsequent Emperors until Constantine until at last, she settled on making work with an abusive husband.

Such then is our thumbnail sketch of the beginnings of the Christian Church as we now know it.

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