Jesus, James, and Paul
I have a number of thoughts to express on this topic of Jesus. The life story of this person has a tremendous influence on our society, more than 2000 years after his death. Yet there is no published historical work of his time that mentions him, other than a religious work like the Bible. James the Just, who in the Bible is called the brother of Jesus, is mentioned many times in works of the time (such as Josephus who chronicled the invasion of Palestine by the Romans, but others as well).
According to the Bible (the beginning of Matthew's Gospel is very explicit that Joseph, the husband of Mary, maintained the male bloodline from David and Abraham), Jesus was a descendant of David. Therefore he had a legitimate claim to be 'King of the Jews' (which claim the Romans crucified him for). It has been suggested that the Holy Grail is really the Holy Blood - the bloodline through Jesus to the ancient kings of Israel. If Jesus had male descendants, then they would have a similar claim.
There is a myth regarding a virgin birth of Jesus. (Of course, for Jesus and the Bible to lay his claim to the bloodline of David, his father would have had to be Joseph, not the Holy Spirit.) It has been pointed out that in the culture of that time, there was an extended engagement period before the completion of the marriage rite. If a baby would be conceived during this time, the mother was still a 'virgin'. (Reading Matthew's Gospel, it appears Mary and Joseph might have been engaged, not yet married.) In later cultures, and up to the present day, the term 'virgin' has other meanings. However, as the Bible noted that Jesus was of 'holy blood' and that bloodline was through his father (Joseph), the current meaning of a virgin (i.e., not having participated in the sexual act) does not apply to his mother and his birth. Mary, his mother, was not a 'virgin' in the sense of the term's current meaning. Joseph is the father. He was very likely a 'holy man' among the Jews. In fact, the myth that Joseph is a poor carpenter seems intended to remove him from the picture of Jesus being Godlike rather than just a man.
I am rather amazed that this role of Jesus as the King of the Jews is somehow never revealed in Bible studies. I attended a Catholic grade school and when this connection finally became clear to me as an adult, it puts the entire Bible in a new perspective. In Matthew chapter 1, it is explicitly shown that Joseph, the father of Jesus, has lineage to David. In Luke chapter 2, again Joseph has the lineage of David. In Mark chapter 10, a blind man says Jesus is the son of David. It is readily apparent that the people of Jesus' time must have known he was special - especially to the Jews. In that case, Jesus (whether he was Joseph's legitimate son or not) would not have been just any commoner and so any of his teachings would have been received from that privileged context. He was part of the holy Jewish bloodline and as such was probably educated in the books of the Old Testament (which is shown in Luke chapter 2 with a story of Jesus at age 12). In Matthew chapter 27, Mark chapter 15, Luke chapter 23 and John chapter 19, in each story with Pontius Pilate, Jesus is clearly identified as the King of the Jews. He was born with the holy bloodline to David. Therefore if Jesus is also to be considered the only Son of God, to start a non-Jewish religion (Christianity), then God must have chosen the King of the Jews to be that person on Earth. This is a very strange choice indeed! Perhaps it is more believable that the Bible might be a mix of actual stories of actual people intertwined with myths that arose during the retelling of those stories by people not involved in the actual events.
Since the author of Matthew's Gospel made it a point that Joseph was a direct descendant of David and Abraham, it is quite likely that others at that time would have known the same. The Gospels were drafted after the Romans had sacked Jerusalem and driven out the Jews. If the New Testament books placed all the blame for the death of Jesus on the Romans, the Romans would have no doubt taken exception to such writings, even if the accusation was true. By trying to place the blame for the crucifixion on the Jews, the early Christians, being non-Jewish, would have avoided such conflicts with their Roman rulers. The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that the Jews at the time of the Biblical Acts were following James, the brother of Jesus, and the other leaders with James and they were in conflict with Paul the Apostle, who was busy developing the basis for Christianity by teaching stories of Jesus to the non-Jews. The Jews would not crucify their 'King'! Especially since after the death of Jesus, the Jews followed James, his brother, until James' death which lead directly to the Jewish rebellion that was violently put down by the Romans.
Mary Magdalen is a unique individual in the New Testament. She is the only female with a 'last name'. Several authors have suggested that she was the wife of Jesus and might have even conceived several children by Jesus. In the centuries since the time of Jesus, several writers have discounted her significance and some have even slighted her character (e.g., she was a prostitute or having some other less than honorable presence). There is sometimes confusion in the New Testament regarding the mention of a person Mary - does it refer to the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, or another Mary? Too many 'arys' in the story can diminish the significance of this Mary, and that has been mentioned by some authors as a possibility. If Mary Magdalen really was the wife of Jesus (especially if they had children!), then the picture of the 'Son of God' is quite a bit different than the Catholic Church presents. However, remember that the epithet 'Son of God' was not applied to Jesus until the fourth century.
John the Baptist is a very interesting character. The interaction between John and Jesus is rarely discussed. John is very important to the life of Jesus, as John baptizes Jesus. It has been suggested that in fact John might have been the primary prophet of the time but Jesus 'took over' for him. The circumstances of that transition are debatable. I only very recently discovered a link between Leonardo da Vinci and the John and Jesus situation. The works of Leonardo always portray John as more important than Jesus. I was very surprised to learn that the 'Shroud of Turin', a cloth that has been theorized to represent Jesus might have been a production of Leonardo. It might be a 'self-photograph' of Leonardo itself, using very crude materials of his time. The 'picture' on the Shroud has a distinct separation at the neck - as if Leonardo is portraying a linkage between the story of the beheading of John to the crucifixion of Jesus. His painting of the Last Supper actually has a woman at the right hand of Jesus (Mary Magdalen?) and the painting has several implied references to John.
The works of Hugh Schonfield (especially The Pentecost Revolution) provide a good description for the life and times of Jesus in the first century AD.
In the Gospels, Jesus makes a few references to his brother James, including one remark that James will take over for Jesus when he is gone. James is mentioned many times in the Acts of the Apostles as Paul the apostle struggles with the James who is the leader of the religious movement that continued after the death of Jesus. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls also discuss James - but from the perspective of his followers and, for them, Paul is considered a problem for James.
The brothers Jesus and James appear to have had an affect on the establishment of year 1 AD. To me, it is obvious that there never was a year 1. It wasn't until Jesus and James manifested their leadership that their followers decided to establish the base year number based on their leader(s). Unfortunately, with Jesus being of a 'virgin birth', there was some confusion as to who was the true leader. I have read many times that Jesus is thought to have been born in 6 B.C. - which is odd if B.C. is supposed to be the years before his birth and that number is not 0. However, James is thought to have been born around 1 B.C. Since James is the one of the two that provided the true recorded leadership (by being recognized by the Roman writers of his time) and it was his death that sparked the Jewish rebellion that lead to the destruction of Jerusalem the base year 1 was really based on James not Jesus. (This theory is also in the book by Barbara Thiering.)
The crucifixion of Jesus is an interesting culmination to his life. Reading the New Testament, Jesus appears to have had an inner circle that helped him along his chosen path. As an example (in Matthew chapter 21), he had someone go ahead to prepare for his triumphant parade on a donkey that Catholics now celebrate as Palm Sunday. Either he tells two of his disciples to go steal a donkey or the donkey was already waiting for the request of Jesus.
His death on the cross seems to have been part of a plan as well. He is given something to drink and he surprisingly 'dies' almost immediately - to the surprise of everyone (see Mark 15:44). The story of Easter Sunday - his rising from the dead - includes the appearance of several people dressed in white. The white gown was the traditional garb of his Essene followers. It seems that Jesus was to have been unconscious for a few days and then he would 'rise from the dead', just like Saturn in the ancient myths. Something went wrong with the plan and Jesus must have died a while later. Even the Koran states that Jesus did not die on the cross.
One interesting observation about the life of Jesus and the claim that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. If all four gospels have recorded different last words of Jesus dying on the cross, how can the gospels be infallible if at least three out of four are wrong?
I find it so ironic that our Christian religions are based on the life of a Jewish leader who apparently sought to lead his Jewish followers who were burdened by the rule of Rome and who sought autonomy again. It took several hundred years after his death for this religion, spawned by an apostle (Paul) that never met Jesus, to elevate the person Jesus to the level of a 'god'. The Jewish religion was transformed by the events after the death of James the Just to where the life of Jesus is so much less important than the works of the Old Testament (returning to the original Jewish emphasis on rituals and traditions). The Islamic religion is also based on the books of the Old Testament since it shares its roots with the other religions via Abraham, an important figure in the Old Testament (which is, to a great extent, just the written history of the Jewish people). All three major Western religions have the same roots (via the Old Testament) but all are in a continual conflict with each other.
The 20th century publication of investigations into the life and times of Jesus have revealed that the historical person is different than the mythical person - and that mythical person is the one that still dominates the current Christian teachings. created - May 2000
last change - 06/15/2013
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