The Suffering Messiah That Wasn’t Jesus

I recommend reading my earlier blog-post:  Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ before starting this one to gain a little perspective of 1st century Jerusalem under the Roman Empire’s sphere of influence, in particular the influence of Emperor Constantine.

The canonical-Gospel writers paint a different picture of Jesus’ life and death than what the surrounding historical traditions of the period paint.  Around most of Judaism’s various sects, including the Diaspora, and throughout post-Davidic traditions, the modern story of a suffering Messiah was supposedly unheard of until after Jesus’ death; a unique tragedy.  Most New Testament Christian scholars argue that a suffering Messiah was completely uncommon in the time prior to Jesus’ life or during his life.  Prior to Jesus’ birth in 4 BCE, claims as the Messiah or the arrived Savior/Redeemer of David’s oppressed people are mentioned in the Gospels, e.g. Matthew 24 and Mark 13, Luke 3: 14-16, 22: 66-68, 24: 46 and John 7: 42, and 12: 34.  It is inferred from these passages that Messianic expectancy was active and alive among all Jews for a very long time.  But not a suffering or crucified Messiah.  This was the apparent reason the canonical-Gospel Jesus was such a controversy during his life among fellow Jews.  This has been the traditional Christian view since the Apostle Paul’s first letters and public preaching.  But this is not the entire picture.

What isn’t widely known today is that there is strong evidence of at least two suffering Messiahs PRIOR to Jesus.  As a matter of fact, contrary to the Greco-Roman Gospel traditions, the story of a suffering Messiah was much more common around the empire and outlying trade routes than Constantine’s bishops would have been comfortable tolerating or allowing.

David Jeselsohn and the Gabriel’s Revelation Stone

Did you know that Flavius Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian that many Christian apologists reference, writes about two earlier Messiahs other than Jesus?  Simon of Peraea and Athronges were both claimants and both killed by the Romans.   Following the death of Jesus there were as many as four further claimants by 70 CE, then two more by 135 CE (see Wikipedia’s page on Jewish Messiah Claimants). Addendum — on May 25th, 2018 at 11:30am CDT, I revisited the above Wikipedia link/list and it has been noticeably rewritten and/or changed since May 2011. The most obvious, significant change is the removal of all (3-4?) Messiah-claimants prior to Jesus of Nazareth. Wikipedia does allow “anyone” in the world to edit its pages. Certainly do your own research, but I’ve found another link demonstrating Messiahs before Jesus. Click here or here for two links to begin your research, or go to any large public library.

Interestingly, Josephus names Roman emperor Vespasian as one of the Messianic claimants.  This unusual designation by a Jewish-Roman historian indicates an established trend of Rome’s ruling figures to keep strict control of outer provinces, including Judea, by any means necessary even if it meant hijacking their Messianic traditions and making it their own; something Constantine turned into reality 255 years later.  What is important to note here is in a region such as 1st century Judea and Jerusalem who constantly rebelled against their rulers in Rome, the context of those unsuccessful rebel-Messiahs were intentionally handled and later scripted with Roman interests in mind, NOT local Jewish interests.

Messianic traditions were not exclusive to Judaism.  The traditions already existed in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, religions founded well before Constantine’s Christianity began.  This makes Messianic expectations in whatever form common and not unique by the time Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.  The last aforementioned religion is of particular interest.  Zoroastrianism was founded between 1500-1200 BCE by the Persian prophet Zarathustra in what is now modern-day Iran.  Many Antiquities and religious scholars trace ‘anointed King’ traditions back to Zoroastrian stories.  As the kingdoms of Judea and Israel were often conquered by near eastern empires then exiled to foreign lands, inevitably some of the victors beliefs and traditions are assimilated into each other.  This morphing is widely accepted by historians.  Dr. Abraham Valentine Williams Jackson, an American specialist on Indo-Iranian languages writes:

“The typical passage is found in the Hþtokht Nask (Yt. 22. 1-36; and compares Vistþsp Yasht, Yt. 24. 53-64). For the first three nights after the breath has left the body the soul hovers about the lifeless frame and experiences joy or sorrow according to the deeds done in this life. On the dawn of the fourth day the soul takes fight from earth…”

Note: compare this to the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Monday (the dawn of the fourth day).

“The author has attempted in his article in the Biblical World to show how much the Messiah-idea in Judaism and the Saoshyant-idea in Mazdaism, probably taught by Zarathushtra himself, resemble each other.”

“The similarity between it (the Zoroastrian doctrine of the future life and the end of the world) and the Christian doctrine is striking and deserve more attention on the side of Christian theology, even though much has been written on this subject.”

Zarathustra, founder of Zoroastrianism, born approx 6th century BCE

American archaeologist and historian James H. Breasted found:

“There is plenty of evidence that the post-exilic religious development of the Hebrews was affected by the teachings of Zarathushtra, and that among the international influences to which the development of Hebrew morals was exposed, we must include also the teachings of the great Medo-Persian Prophet.”

“It was not until the rise of the Chaldean power (Neo-Babylonian) in the 6th century B.C. and the subsequent supremacy of the Persians after Cyrus, that the Babylonians disclosed outstanding intellectual interests and their noble astronomers laid the foundations upon which the astronomical sciences of the Greeks was later built up.”

English-born political philosopher John N. Gray and author of the book Near Eastern Mythology states:

“The Persians had their own mythology, or rather their own conception of the natural and supernatural order, formulated by the religion of Zarathushtra. This cosmic philosophy, influenced by Babylonian astronomy, had an effect on late Jewish thought and Messianic expectations.”

Writing down or documenting events was typically expensive and reserved mostly for select specialized individuals in 1st century Palestine and Judea.  Naturally, the spoken word or public speaking was commonly used regarding news-worthy stories or to do commercial business.  It is well established that the three common languages around 1st century Jerusalem were Greek (Roman), Hebrew (Jews), and Arabic (near eastern empires).  Jesus most definitely spoke Arabic and Hebrew, and likely knew enough Greek to get by (for further reading see Aramaic language-Imperial Aramaic).  It is conceivable that Jesus’ Arabian-Jewish heritage played a significant part in his own Messianic projection but also signifies that Messianic traditions were not exclusive to Judaism and equally likely they were brought to Judaism.

In July 2008 The New York Times released a news article Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection raising questions about the uniqueness of the traditional Christian Messiah, as well as the validity of the canonical-Gospel’s rendition of the resurrection selected by Constantine’s bishops.  When Antiquities collector David Jeselsohn purchased the tablet, he had no clue of its origins or implications.  The writing on the stone dates to the latter part of the 1st century during other Dead Sea literature of the time and prior to the birth of Jesus.  It is referred to as The Jeselsohn Tablet or Gabriel’s Revelation Stone.  The controversy among scholars of biblical archaeology lies in one specific line of the tablet.  National Geographic Expedition Week aired this episode about the tablet (below in two parts):

Go to this webpage for the next part Lessons from Another Messiah.  It could not be embedded here; my apologies.

It is important to keep in mind that after the three Jewish rebellions of 66-70 CE, 115-117 CE, and 132-135 CE much of the Hebrew speaking population of Judea was wiped-out and with it widespread spoken traditions of a Messiah.  From these fragmented remnants sprang the diverse earliest Jewish-Christians which eventually spread into an eastern empire social welfare system by the time of Trajan and on into Constantine’s reign.

With the exception of line 80 enough of the tablet is legible to know its meaning

With the combination of the Jeselsohn Tablet and the surfacing of original 1st century BCE Jewish Messianic traditions (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls), it is becoming more clear that the Greco-Roman version of Christianity founded by Constantine’s bishops reflects only small portions of Judaic Messianism in its true eschatological forms.  What does this mean then to modern Christianity?

Dr. Israel Knohl of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (and in above videos) is part of a group of Jewish historians and theologians that concentrate on reestablishing Jesus’ Jewish roots, in particular to the teachings of Hillel, a 1st century BCE liberal Jewish rabbi.  Because of the linguistic dating of the Jeselsohn Tablet it falls nicely into place with Hillel, and probably well-known to an adolescent Jesus.  If the tablet does indeed end up predating Jesus (as of Sept. 2019 most scholars have determined it is authentic and it does predate Jesus) and the scientific community are able to determine that one “lost” Hebrew letter, the implications on traditional Christianity are profound on many levels.  The most significant of these effects would be on the resurrection and ascension of Jesus being based on an earlier Jewish Messianic story (Simon of Peraea) and not on any real events.  Other effects would be on Christian exclusivity, atonement, salvation, incarnation, the Holy Trinity, and the virgin birth…all misrepresented by Constantine’s bishops.  Dr. Israel Knohl describes it this way:

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity.  Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship.  What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story. … [Jesus’] mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come.  This is the sign of the son of Joseph.  This is the conscious view of Jesus himself.  This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning.  To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to [the nation of] Israel.

This sheds new light on the messianic activity of Jesus.  It proves that the concept of the messiah was already there before Jesus. … This is evidence that the idea of a suffering messiah, put to death and coming back to life after three days was known to at least a group of Jews.”

Robert H. Eisenman

Due to the might and influence of the Roman Empire upon its conquered, uncovering the real roots of Christianity, or more accurately Jewish-Christianity, has been by the hands of modern-day science and academia.  In their acclaimed books James the Brother of Jesus by Robert H. Eisenman and The Lost Christianities by Bart D. Ehrman, both authors portray 1st century Jerusalem struggling to maintain its religious integrity while subjected to Messianic Zionism and Roman oppression.  After the deaths of Simon of Peraea, Anthronges, and Jesus the Nasoraean, religious historians know there was a group of Jews within and around Jerusalem that followed closely rabbi Hillel’s Messianic interpretations.  This group would have included Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, close followers/disciples of Jesus and siblings including next in command, James.  These Jews are sometimes called Ebionites.  They believed Jesus was fully human and a prophet or great teacher, but completely rejected the idea of Jesus as God or the Son of God.  It is these very Ebionites that the Herod-ian Jews of Palestine labeled as apocalyptic Messiah-militants and by extension not in the best interest of Rome.  And interestingly Eisenman connects the Herodian Saul’s denunciation of old school circumcision-Judaism in Galatians 3 and 6:12 — remarkably a coincidental “evil” twin of the “Opposition Movement” of Essenes, Zealots, Sicarii, Nasoraeans, and Ebionites referenced by Josephus documenting the Jewish revolts — as practically identical to Saul of Tarsus, aka the Apostle Paul to the Greek Christians that Roman bishops favored.  It is right there that the difference between Jewish-Hillel-Simon-Jesus Messianism begins to compete with a Herod-Paul-Ignatius-Tertullian-Constantine Christianity over two and a half centuries…and loses in the end to mighty Rome.  The birth, appetite and growth of anti-Semitism was then unleashed in its bloody ferocity.

Bart D. Ehrman

With a historically accurate perspective on 1st century Jewish Messianic traditions and the Roman armies’ destruction of the Jewish Revolts and near annihilation of its Messianic rebels, it is not unrealistic to conclude that by the 3rd century CE the original context and purpose of Jesus’ life and death took on an entirely different meaning.  As I mentioned in my earlier blog Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ, it was a customary Greco-Roman method to govern its foreign provinces by any means necessary, especially when your mission is to reunite the Eastern Roman Empire with the Western Roman Empire.  Whether the Jeselsohn Tablet proves that Simon of Peraea was the first real suffering Messiah or not, or the bishops of Nicaea either got it all wrong or purposefully deified their own version of a Christ (Greek Apotheosis) through their canonical-New Testament, there is enough real evidence showing that the gap between our modern Christ — birthed from Constantine’s unification program — resembles little of its supposed Messianic prophetic fulfillment in light of the real Jewish Messianic traditions prior to Jesus.

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29 thoughts on “The Suffering Messiah That Wasn’t Jesus

  1. Marvellously interesting…I’m coming back to read it more closely. Such an important line of inquiry…What a lot of great research you are doing here!


    • Carol, I’m honored that you’ve come by to read this. Thank you! I want to reference some of your material, particularly “The Karmic Wheel – America, Christianity and the State of Israel”, if that is alright with you? Your work is superb & from what I’ve read so far (and it’s alot), you offer a wonderful spiritual ‘solution’ to my personal “reconstruction” of historical Christianity. You are ALWAYS welcome to stop by here & add your rich insights!


      • I’d be quite happy to have you reference some of my ‘Writings in the Sand’ ….which are really just overviews at that. At times, I have felt so much like writing a book about the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, not so much from the essential doctrinal roots/or non-roots perspective(fascinating though that is) but from the point of view of the deadly consequences for the Jews of political Christianity’s refusal “to let go”…

        Your reading in this area of historical Christianity is more far-reaching than mine, though I recognize the cultural and political landmarks, and love the tour back through Time. I am a beneficiary of your hard work…


  2. Great stuff! It is quite interesting to tell the typical (evangelical) apologist about Simon of Paraea. You can literally see the mechanisms in their heads crashing into one another. And it is astonishing the similarities found in Zoroastrianism. The six-part creation myth, Adam and Eve, the duality of the universe, free will, the human condition, the end times, and the savior.

    If you feel like engaging Brandon over on my post, go for it. He drives me crazy, but I know you can handle anything he tries to throw up. I’ve already dealt with his sacrifice suggestion, but i’m sure he’s going to try and claim some other nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL — yet Simon of Paraea was very real but ironically leftout of THEIR “education”, usually because the sources of his life are non-Christian in origin and therefore Satanically maligned, or at least at risk of that. 😉

      I’ll need to read Brandon’s approach, what he’s stating, etc. My time (and very busy schedule) for taking hardcore faith-believers through MY 24-year journey and exhaustive study is limited when one must honestly wade through the vast scholarly academia available! It can’t be grasped overnight, over a week, or even over 2-3 months! It’s just too much! But you know John? I’d much rather have it all available to me, or anyone for that matter, than having only Constantine’s very limited library! Know what I mean? 😉

      I’ll checkout Brandon and see what I can contribute significantly — more for you and YOUR viewers/followers than for “deconverting” him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Professor, I’m not sure what is the relevance of your argument. Even in the off-chance that everything you said was false or unsupported, we have Isaiah 53 in the Dead Sea Scrolls that predate the New Testament. In fact, in the book of Acts, Paul argues from scripture (Tanakh) to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, and Isaiah 53 is likely a passage he referred to. That in itself might be evidence that the conception of a suffering Messiah predates Christianity.

    Of course there were many conceptions of the Messiah — warlord, a king, possibly divine. I don’t think the suffering aspect is the shock-factor. Especially if any Jews considered Isaiah 53 to be a Messianic prophecy. And, in fact, righteous martyrdom was already highly regarded as in the Maccabean Revolt. The real shock-factor, however, was that Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion was viewed as the Romans winning or as being smitten by God. That’s what was so repulsive about it, and why Paul said it was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles in 1 Corinthians. Here’s the truth: the cross is scandalous. It was in the first century and still is today. We have plenty of ethical criticism of the cross coming from the atheist movement.

    Not only was a crucified Messiah difficult to believe, but a resurrection was even more difficult. NT Wright has a good argument stating the gospel writers did not anticipate the resurrection, (i.e. they usually went out of their way to find prophetic support for Jesus, but could find none for the resurrection).

    So, a suffering Messiah may be less popular and find less analogy with Zoroastrian ideas compared to a king, warlord, or divine figure. But, a crucified and resurrecting Messiah is radically different. Good luck finding even a stretched parallel.

    Also, you found it easy to assert that Zoroastrianism influenced Second Temple Judaism, but I am curious to see your evidence. I am skeptical you have any.

    Cheers, Brandon


    • Hello Brandon,

      Thank you for your feedback on this post. I always welcome alternative viewpoints.

      To address your first assertion, “I’m not sure what is the relevance of your argument“, I assume you found me and this post from my comments over at John Zande’s A Supersticious Naked Ape. If my relevance there was unclear, I wouldn’t really belabor your assertion — I was hastily throwing in my two-cents that I felt John would understand; he and I seem to come from similar current standpoints of a person called Yeshua/Isa/Jesus from an area around 1st century CE Jerusalem. If however, you just by happenstance stumbled across my post here and could not deduce or figure out the relevance or purpose of the post, then my apologies, here it is…

      During my years in fundamental Christianity and three years in seminary (Reformed Theological Seminary — Jackson, MS), I was lead to believe that the story of “Jesus” was miraculous, unique, and one-of-a-kind like NO OTHER religion or “Savior” in existence or in all of known history. That is simply NOT the case when all fields of study relevant to this prolific Jewish teacher/Rabbi are examined — especially in light of historical records which are not blantantly 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century CE Christian. In other words, the dramatic story of The Passion of Christ turns out to be quiet…un-unique and VERY prevalent in Jewish Messianism of 3rd century BCE to 1st century CE Judaism of the area…as also supported in the Dead Sea Scrolls you mentioned. As another good blogger on this subject has stated to me, “Truth should always withstand scrutiny,” …that is to say the fundamental Xian’s “truth” (Scripture) they proport withstands all of time. In the case of unique Messiah of the stature of John 14:6, it is quiet bogus. That is/was the purpose of this post.

      Regarding the remainder of your comment, it will take some valuable time of mine to address those assertions later. Nevertheless, thanks for your perspective and feedback. It is appreciated. If you’d like, I have several other subjects you might be curious to inquire about if so moved or bold. 🙂

      Kind regards.


      • Professor, you do intrigue me. Seeing that you are busy, do you mind if I ask just two questions? We can just sort of sideline what I said earlier for a moment.

        I agree with what you seem to want to say, that New Testament historians now think that Jesus is best understood in the context of first century Judaism, and especially the context of Messianic movements that arose a century either side of Jesus. NT Wright has done extensive studies on this including the unique factors and beliefs of early Christians. As a historian, NT Wright concluded (I’m saying this from memory) that the Christian belief in resurrection of Jesus is the most novel aspect of Christianity. So, my first question is simply, have you seriously engaged with NT Wright’s work? Especially Jesus and the Victory of God series?

        Just in case you have not, I will mention that NT Wright goes further. He argues that first and second century Messianic movements provide comparison for why the Jesus movement succeeded after its founder died and to explain the particular shape of the Christian doctrine versus other Jewish Messianic movements that died. He argues the best explanation is that Jesus actually resurrected. That was the catalyst that got things going and underpinning of all Christian doctrine. He provides textual and historical ground for this argument.

        Next, I appreciate you telling me your story. I must admit, though, I am still trying to connect the dots between what you are saying and how you lost your faith. Presumably, you connect the uniqueness of Christianity with its truthfulness as a worldview. You must know, that is not a typical reason for losing faith, and that is why I find you intriguing. To me this could go one of two ways. Either 1) you ultimately argue that Christian doctrine was actually adopted from preexisting religions or sects that were active or connected to first century Palestine. With 1) it doesn’t matter if Jesus existed as a historical figure or even died or believed himself to be the Son of God sent to die for sins. All the miraculous stuff, the doctrine of atonement, the resurrection are all fictional. Or 2) your argument is more complex than typical hyperparallism arguments like in 1). So my second question is simply, is it basically 1) or 2) or something else entirely?


  4. Hello again Brandon,

    Well I’ll admit…I commend your determination and resolve on this subject and this ONE post. I’m happy I intrigue you. I’ve been told worse by others. LOL 😉

    I must be forthright about my opinion of N.T. Wright. I will always have a negative slant on him because of his stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Though that social issue has nothing to do with our subject matter here, with Wright’s intentional disregard of Nature’s many same-sex bonds in the animal kingdom, I find his personal biasness sad and bigoted considering the overwhelming Natural evidence to the contrary. Regarding human sexual attractions, since the late 1980’s medical and neurological research has adequately revealed structural size differences in the anterior hypothalamuses of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people compared to those of heterosexual persons. This means non-hetero people are born that way — the way God the Creator intended they be born, if I may speak like a Christian minister on the topic. This is completely aside from the thousands upon thousands of intersexed births globally that his position can’t explain away in any humane manner. Therefore, I will painfully TRY to set aside that negative slant on Wright for the sake of our comments here. *grumble*

    Moving on, regarding yours and Wright’s conclusion about “the Christian belief in resurrection of Jesus [as] the most novel aspect of Christianity“, without seriously engaging N.T. Wright (as you say), my very first question to him and his Series would be, Do any of his historical sources supporting a valid resurrection originate from objective non-Christian records, testimonies, or evidence? In other words, if a China-man were there during Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, then disappearance, and wrote about it when he returned home, are there records as such available…ANYWHERE!? If so, why on Earth haven’t they surfaced!? Christians and their apologists would CERTAINLY want that sort of evidence and records to turn up many centuries ago — geezzz, even today, to further validate a resurrection and stem the controversy! But why haven’t they turned up?

    For the sake of your recommendation, I’ll go browse what I can of N.T. Wright’s apologetics searching specifically for non-Christian sources of support. I see that there is a 49-minute video of this and a dedicated fanpage discussing the topic; I’ll check them. I must confess, I am not anticipating hearing or reading anything that I haven’t already dealt with 24-years ago. Why can I comfortably say that? Because to this day traditional mainstream Christianity keeps CLOSED the books/evidence, the final verdict, regarding this man’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, and has for almost two millenia! Has that changed?

    {several hours later}

    Finally in the 15th minute of the video Wright gets to the crux of the question, but then asks the WRONG question for my/our purposes here. He asks: Why are certain people of the 1st century CE Jerusalem & Levant saying Jesus has literally risen from the dead… instead of asking WHO is claiming a literal resurrection!? Disappointing. “Why” gets into the personal subjective theology of Jesus Movement followers, NOT the more convincing evidence or testimonies of a literal dead-man now alive and walking around by whom. In this video Wright uses the phrase “according to the Gospels…” many times, again revealing the biasness of those selected historical records/evidence. I already know about what he’s saying; I was trained in it as well. In the 32nd and 33rd minute of the video, Wright gets close to the required objectivity and question by stating “other than the Apostle Paul’s Epistles and the canonical Gospels, people of Jerusalem and all other Christians were really proclaiming that Jesus’ resurrection was indeed literal!” Okay, where are those records/testimonies he’s referencing?

    Sadly and disappointingly, Wright is vague and soon falls BACK to the Gospels yet again. This has always begged the question from me, If it was so widely accepted and verified, WHERE is that evidence, those records!? Josephus? Nope, unreliable — his records have been adequately proven to be tampered with, or at least not sufficient to claim his writings as 100% valid and reliable. So who is it? Where are these records/evidence (outside of Paul and the Gospels) that Wright implies are popular & widespread??? Is it because they never did exist? Is it because the real story of Jesus’ final days were never remarkable enough for anyone else to report other than his very close and biased followers? Of course, for these comments and dialogue Brandon, I’m shelving the well-known controversies and contradictions of the Synoptic Gospels; FYI.

    From there Wright moves further beyond his false, ill-established premises to more extreme theories of the resurrection story. Therefore, at the 42nd minute-mark I stopped it. I could not bear anymore. Sorry Brandon. LOL If you’d like to view the same video to check it against the Series you mentioned, here’s the YouTube title: NT Wright The Resurrection. Feel free to critique it and tell me it isn’t a good representation (in almost 50 mins) of his “Victory of God Series.” 😉

    Okay, on to the fanpage.

    What immediately strikes me as odd (to put it kindly) is a bibliography of ONLY 14 sources, 6 of them from N.T. Wright himself. Hmm, I’m thinking maybe this is NOT a good source of Wright’s apologetics of the resurrection? Nevertheless, I’ll begrudge through it in fairness. :/

    {35 minutes later}

    Grrrr, sorry. Not 35 minutes well spent. Why? The same reasons as I had 24-years ago: If Wright is going to claim the widespread popularity of an astonishing and never before exclusive unique Event (such as the resurrection), then WHERE are the attached secular records/evidence to support it…even deny it? It is a well known fact that Roman scribes or historians were EXTREMELY meticulous and diligent to record events, even minor trivial events. This was the case all throughout the Empire’s 630+ years of existence both in the Western Empire and Eastern Empire! Yet, hardly any records exist — outside of 1-2 Roman Jews’ records, e.g. Josephus, and Paul’s epistles and the canonical gospels — about this spectacular Neo-Movement UNHEARD OF in all of Judaism and any other known religions of the time. This isn’t just an enigma Brandon, it says a whole lot about the fanciful hyped-up SUBJECTIVE records of the Movement and its adherants. And I’ve already addressed from a historical standpoint why the Movement took off in my post, Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ.

    With respect, this concludes my interest & dealings with N.T. Wright.

    With regard to me and “losing my faith”… that is not how I describe it. I’m sorry you’re having such difficulty connecting dots. In my experience with words & phrases like that, they only come from ONE group of people: the faithful, loyal, hardcore “rescuing” or (stubborn?) Christian apologists. No one else I’ve ever encountered about my deconversion describes it that way. Now THAT’S intriguing! 😉

    The way I describe my change or deconversion is like this: You can’t “lose” what never existed. What does that mean? In an empirical historical sense, the “faith” I accepted or embraced in 1983 with ALL OF MY HEART was a leap that no matter what questions or doubts I had then, I was JUMPING so that God could fulfill His promises. Staying safely inside a close-knit Christian group, church, and seminary family, tucked away inside America’s Bible-belt where 90%-95% of all citizens claim Christianity in various forms… God really had no difficulty in doing that! A walk in the park really. But I am not one to sit in a comfort zone stagnate, telling myself “this is the life”. I am a Marco Polo type personality, I want to see the world, I want to engage with every sort of human being imaginable because that is who I am. That was our family for many generations. Pro and semi-pro soccer allowed me to do that around the globe! If you are a very social person, inevitably you WILL meet persons who are like you but smarter, more expansive & experienced, and with perspectives you could’ve NEVER imagined sitting safely in the Bible-belt all or most of your life. Just 7 years later I met that person that had only 1 simple question for me — ironically like John Zande’s post and question; HAH! As I mentioned before, “Truth should always withstand scrutiny, always.” That is to say the “truth” fundamental (innerrant?) Biblicalism proports.

    Wonderfully, that ONE unanswerable question of the Bible was the start of my deconversion, because the holes in my Bibli-idolatry came in waves; harder with each one. Today, I have regained my self, my ownership, and my own life-rudder! I am a survivor of my intellectual suicide from 1983! I’ve never been happier or more empowered! And it keeps growing, but growing in love and empathy for all humanity, not dividing and separating myself from my human family as the Abrahamic religions erroneously teach! 🙂

    Regarding your final paragraph of strictly 2 possible explanations of “where this can go”… Giving me ONLY two options is pretty suspicious. Giving people open-ended questions allows you to learn about them in their own words, rather than attempting to sneak words in their mouths. Hence, I’m not quite sure what your leading to, but I’ll attempt my own suspicious interpretation. 😉

    #1) Christian doctrine & theology, as we have it today in the 21st century, cannot be completely separated from the pre-existing theology and Messianism of Antiquity Judaism, ever. It must have it if for no other reason than to legitimize Jesus’ blood-line and the Messianic birth-prophecies. Besides, I think we both agree that Jesus was FIRMLY Jewish, probably even semi-Essene or Ebionite, maybe Nazorean (another commonly unknown sect). Perhaps the next question would be: Does Judaism have roots/ancestors anywhere? Of course they do. All religions do. That’s simple reliable evolution, or cause-n-effect.

    #2) This one is confusing. However, I can say that my current non-Christian beliefs, world-views, and the after-life, are definitely more complex than most people EVER care to get into. Honestly, they don’t care. You on the other hand? 😉

    This is BY FAR my longest comment-reply to anyone, ever! LOL 😛
    It does not mean I will continue doing it. Life is too short, wouldn’t you agree?


    • Thanks for your response, Professor. And, thanks for taking the time to look into NT Wright.

      The major difference between Wright’s lecture and his book is the latter is an academic tome that is far more detailed. The new problem you raise – that there are no extracanonical witnesses of the resurrection – is one that does not bother Wright (or me) because the New Testament is a collection of historical documents which represents a wide range of people-groups that claimed to be witnesses. Paul basically is the Roman scribe you want. I also consider the low literacy rate and how miracles were granted to a limited chosen group. Given these factors, the lack of extracanonical witnesses is not surprising at all. And, I would venture to say that if there were extracanonical witnesses, there would be ways to downplay them and reject Christianity. There is always a way to believe what you want.

      When I deconverted it was because of evolution and the problem of evil and postmodernism. Of all the reasons to reject Christianity, I find the reason you cite to be unique. But, based on your new response, I can see things are more complicated that the reason you initially cited. 🙂 That’s understandable.

      I did read your Constantine post. Based on sociologist Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity, Constantine did not facilitate Christianity’s dominance of Rome. In fact, Christians were the majority group in the Roman Empire when Constantine converted. With or without Constantine, I think Christianity would be alive today. It has survived the worst of persecutions causing it to hide underground all the way to being corrupted by evil powers and requiring restoration. Nowadays, the only thing that is close to a threat is ideologies of secularism and Islam, and these are threats to each other as well. As for post-Christianity, especially in Europe, Nietzsche thought it would take hundreds of years for God to die and churches to become tombs. I don’t think either threat has a real chance of totally eliminating Christianity. But hey, I’m clearly saying this as someone who believes in God and Jesus.

      Anyway, thanks for the engagement.


    • Hi Professor

      I was reading on another blog recently the testimony of another person who deconverted. This person was challenged by a friend ‘why did he believe?’ He considered the matter and thought it a sound question, he figured that Christianity hinged on one key fact, the resurrection of Jesus. So he started to look for evidence. He found no external evidence, only what was in the Bible. But what really threw him was that reading the Roman reports from Palestine at the time, they did not mention Jesus at all. that is Jesus made a zero impact on the Roman officials. The earliest external reports he could find about Jesus were more than a generation later and were more hearsay.

      Whilst one can never prove a negative, it is frustrating that the only evidence provided for the resurrection is the Bible. However given the internal inconsistencies in the Bible, even in the accounts of the resurrection (if the gospels are read parallel) itself, how much trust should be placed in these accounts?


      • Hello Peter,

        Thank you for the visit and comment. Please feel free to come around and participate as much as you like.

        Your point about Christianity hinging on one key fact/event is as good a starting point as any. You are indeed correct about there not being external evidence or testimonies to the resurrection; they all come strictly from Christian sources: the synoptic gospels. And as I suspect you may have read in my comment at that blog or perhaps here on mine, 1st century CE Roman historians/scribes were extremely meticulous in recording news of the day and most definitely extraordinary news such as a man literally coming back from the dead, visiting all sorts of live colleagues, then floating up into the sky, into Heaven. There is no logical way that sort of event could have escaped the eyes and ears of the Roman news journalists, even days or weeks later! Furthermore, the Roman authorities at that time were constantly irritated at belligerent Hebrew sects always causing social unrest. They kept VERY CLOSE eyes and ears on them for the slightest hint of revolution. I assure you! Yet, not a word — or at least an indirect hint in all Roman records that such an unbelievable Jesus-event took place. And Josephus’ account is very lacking and unreliable, and Pliny’s (I believe it is…it escapes me at the moment) account is even more lacking, near non-existent really.

        You have also described the synoptic gospel accounts accurately as well: internally inconsistent and at times very unreliable. To your question about the infallability of the synoptic accounts regarding the resurrection, very little trust should be placed in my opinion.

        One major reason the synoptic gospels are discombobulated is because they were written in completely different timeframes, in some cases many decades later and apart from each other well after the resurrection. They were also NOT written or compiled by one author but by several or many, THEN copied, edited, modified due to linguistical and interpretational and interpolational demands to their various audiences — all contributing in the end to their inconsistencies and contradictions. As long as the Roman Catholic Church and all the thousands of mainstream Protestant churches, seminaries, and organizations INSIST on keeping the New Testament “closed”, i.e. canonical, the problems will persist. However, imagine what would happen to the traditional teachings & story of Jesus/Isa/Yeshua would become IF the authorities allowed inclusion of more testimonies!? See, the 3rd century CE Greco-Roman church & bishops cornered themselves into a no win predicament, a pickle they cannot squirm out of because of their greed to control everything — a well established Roman socio-political tradition! LOL

        Does that help Peter? Have I properly addressed your comment and question?


        • Thanks professor, that is a very helpful reply.

          Christian scholars point to Luke as a meticulous scholar. However it seems that his account of the census called by Augustus cannot be squared with the Roman records. Unfortunately one has to question whether Luke made up the account to overcome the problem of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem rather than his home of Nazareth.

          I noticed that the most popular Bible version, NIV, has been correcting some obvious minor errors and inconsistencies in the Bible text. Such as conflicting numbers and names. They have overcome the problem near the end of 2 Samuel where someone other than David is named as the killer of Goliath by changing it to the version in Chronicles which said that person killed the brother of Goliath.

          I have been interested to read some of the work of archaeologists who have argued that Israel and Judah were always separate. After the invasion of Israel by Assyria refuges from Israel moved into Judah and started to incorporate their traditional stories (i.e. Saul) with those of the Judah (i.e. David). They also argue that the Exodus is likely based on the movement of a small group of people, the Levites who migrated from Egypt and settled among the existing people of Israel and Judah. In other words there is a historical background to the stories but the final version in the Bible have been embellished.

          I have wondered about God’s guiding people through the wilderness, a cloudy pillar by day and a bright fire by night. Could it be that these small group of Levites saw for the first time a volcano?

          There is much more I could say on this topic. In essence what you are seeing is me starting to re-evaluate all the issues I suppressed during my years of theological study. It is only when one reaches the stage of being prepared to consider that the Bible account might be incorrect that it is possible to think through these issues ‘logically’. For me that has only happened in the last month.

          I keep asking God to show me I am wrong, but the answer is more consistent with there being no God to answer.

          The really scary thing is that I can continue to lead Christian worship in this conflicted and vexed state of mind and no-one seems to even notice.


          • Greetings again Peter,

            You bring up some interesting biblical questions. I hope you’re able to find adequate answers. You wrote:

            I keep asking God to show me I am wrong, but the answer is more consistent with there being no God to answer.

            I would look at the question of a Higher Being differently. With my science background and hyper-interest in physics and Quantum Mechanics, since I’m convinced there is multiple dimensions of existence (after lives), I tend to believe in a Collective Consciousness or various Collective Consciousnesses. Obviously I haven’t sorted everything perfectly and may not in this/my lifetime, BUT I have confirmed for myself that the biblical versions of life-after-death are not accurate, in some cases way off. Instead of “asking God to show…” you, I would be asking my always nearby collective deceased family & close friends — who are part of that Collective Consciousness(es) — who according to most reliable metaphysic & paranormal experts and the compiling electronic evidence of such, instead I would ask for their collective help. Every person has at least one, two, maybe three or more spirits (Guardian Angels?) who guide them & watch over them. 🙂

            Regarding your last sentence, I can completely empathize Peter; I was once there. It is NOT easy for purely loyalty and loving reasons if not more. I get it! I imagine I don’t need to repeat to you the double-binds you frequently find yourself; it’s TOUGH. :/

            You know where to find me Sir if I can help in small ways, but I also know ultimately YOU need to get thru this jungle yourself. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be yours and it wouldn’t be fully your own choices, your journey. Everyone significant in your life deserves the real true Peter, not a facsimile, not a robot.

            Warm regards Peter. 🙂


  5. You’re welcome Brandon. I do enjoy important discussions when it is kept civil, significant, courteous, and everyone maintains their sense of humor.

    Ultimately, at the end of our lives, the subject of the after-life is secondary — i.e. no one knows in precise depth what takes place and hasn’t for at least the last 5-10,000 years — to what is present, the immediate around us. Yes, Quantum Physics-Mechanics, metaphysics, and our growing library of paranormal research are giving us profound glimpses & wonderful plausible theories presently, yet simultaneously it has become abundantly clear in the last two centuries that what mankind once thought, believed, or preached regarding what takes place after death religiously is WAY OFF and false, certainly not standardized globally. If any conclusions can be drawn, it is exactly what Nature has shown and continues to show us: our perceived human existence is plural, is multidimensional, is as varied as light-photons give us the color-spectrum and in the unseen infrared and electromagnetic spectrums… life and death are everything BUT singular, monistic, binary, narrowly defined, or disempowering-depraved! The depraved-in-need-of-salvation world-view is mostly asserted (extremely?) by the Abrahamic religions and has done a wealth of harm and killing of millions and millions of human beings across the millenia for the sake of their own “laws”. 😦

    Nevertheless, having stimulating intellectual conversations such as this, I will always welcome, and be a regular participant! So thank you. 🙂

    Of Rodney Stark I am definitely familiar. How can I NOT be — he is from Baylor University, a Baptist University, and of Texas’ large universities, it is (no surprise) one of the more conservative of all our state’s universities. His views and books should certainly be part of the available library to anyone’s discussion here, as should all good opposing scholars and their books and studies. Leaving Stark or any of his contemporaries out of the courtroom discussion would be as they say, “withholding pertinent evidence”. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and of course ALL secular and scientific works should all be part of the full body of examination. Brandon, with your personal academic offerings, I feel you are LIMITING the body of impactful evidence by sticking strictly with Paul (a Jewish-Roman, not pure Roman) and the obvious Greco-Roman church Fathers, and the modern Christian theologians and scholars such as Rodney Stark and N.T. Wright. Respectfully Sir, that appears like a slanted jury and court to me. There are way too many secular works available on the Era in question to take such a tunnel-vision approach. For example, the evidence of miracles, or in other terms the paranormal, there’s a plethora of science available to carry on a 10-year highly stimulating discussion of Quantum mechanics which certainly crosses over into the after-life, and in fact supports a select few of the Abrahamic views of death, or as I define it, “transitions”.

    Nonetheless and to conclude our engagements here, I’ve often found it curious why the Christian religion — in comparison to other world religions — in 2,000+ years hasn’t become overwhelmingly the most popular world religion? In fact, its popularity has decreased every decade since just prior to the 1517 Protestant Reformation, naturally with trendy up-spikes during & after every “reformation” which ironically coincides with how Nature and the Universe/Multiverse works anyway. 😉 This is to say nothing about Islam’s increasing numbers and popularity surpassing Christianity. Given this solid historical data and Christianity’s decreasing popularity, what does that say about traditional apocalyptic Christian or Jewish theology? Is such a huge portion of the world’s 7.3 billion population THAT misguided, that duped? No, of course not. As the world’s population continues to be deservedly higher educated, the antiquated myths and legends will continue to step-aside in the hearts & minds of the people to more reasonable, more empirically complete evidence, thus ushering the evolution from decaying Abrahamic religions — and their thousands & thousands of denominationally or sectarian “closed” sealed doctrines and theologies — and once again follow a Natural organic process to enlightenment as has happened throughout all known history. It has happened MANY times throughout humanity’s history, for example:

    So…I too Brandon, appreciate the engagement. Thank you again! Please feel free to visit more & comment on several of my other subjects and categories!

    Best wishes to you Sir. 🙂


    • Professor, I appreciate your civility and I can tell you have more maturity than, well, a good deal of blogland.

      You are really tempting me towards discussions about the morality of homosexuality, quantum mechanics, Christian theology, the evolving demographics of our world and Christian eschatology, and more. 🙂 That’s a good thing.


      • Hi as someone who still classifies themselves as a Christian (though a challenged Christian) the homosexual issue is one I have been contemplating of late.

        The reason I say this is that the Bible teaching on the matter is clear. The vast majority of Biblical scholars would attest that the Bible says homosexuality is unnatural, dare I say an abomination.

        What challenges me is one comes across certain people who you just know are different. Their whole manner, their interests, it as though they are ‘wired differently’ inside. Now if science does prove that such people in essence are naturally attracted to the same sex, then it poses a serious challenge to the divine inspiration of the Bible and the church position that such orientation is in essence a ‘choice’ by the person concerned.

        I have deliberately sidestepped the morality of the church’s position in this post.


        • Peter, this question has been challenging for me as well. When I reconverted to Christianity, this was a hugely difficult area. Before this time, I recall vividly sitting in a Manhattan bar congratulating a recently married lesbian couple, and being proud that I could see the truth of the morality of this issue. It was as simple as there is no harm demonstrated, therefore humans are free to enjoy this sexuality. That’s the typical secular argument. At this point, I disagree.

          Peter, it seems you are leaning towards thinking homosexual orientation is natural and not a matter of choice. That’s also what Professor articulated above with scientific support. I agree with you. I think certain people have a natural homosexual orientation. Acknowledging this is important because it means having a homosexual orientation cannot be sinful. Not any more than my natural propensity towards alcoholism. I did not choose to be an alcoholic, but I can choose what to do about it.

          Even if the majority of scholars think the bible condemns homosexual relations, there are some loud dissenters worth reading. James Brownson (author of Bible, Gender, Sexuality) argues that the moral logic of the bible never shows homosexual relations to be wrong for all cultures, especially advanced Western cultures. For example, it was an abomination to the ancient Israelites perhaps because it was associated with temple prostitution practiced by neighboring tribes. But now Christians are under the New Covenant and this is no longer necessary and temple prostitution is no longer a serious temptation. (Note that Brownson began his scholarly justification of homosexual relations after his son came out). Others from this camp would be Matthew Vines who has a YouTube video on these arguments and the Gay Christian Network (GCN) which exists to promote a dialogue.

          The hands-down most difficult text for the moral logic argument is Romans 1. My concern is that while it may be possible to construct a moral logic type argument, this could still simply be rationalization. It could still be wrong before God, yet our human logic bypasses it similar to how any immoral action can be rationalized. Walter Wight rationalized cooking meth by saying it was for his family’s financial future.

          Then, there are those against homosexual relations arguing from Natural Law. This is purely philosophical and does not rely on theology. Many Catholic thinkers take this route. It may ultimately come down to whether the Natural Law arguments are more convincing than the secular “it does no harm” argument.

          Peter, what seems to concern you in the divine inspiration of the bible. Perhaps if you are convinced that homosexual relations are OK, then the bible was in error and this questions its claims on other matters. This is a legitimate concern. One thing from my personal experience is I have gay friends and I was a supporter for so long, that when I finally realized that they had to choose against God in their conflicting conscience to act on their natural desire, I was devastated. I really did lament. Not just because Western culture now believes that it is normal and to be celebrated, but because they have relatively convincing arguments. This is an area that the darkness has a strong hold of. But, not all of our natural desires are good for our spirits, our families, our societies.

          I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.


          • Brandon,

            I’m enjoying your discussion with Peter about homosexuality. I mentioned to Peter below about my other two posts on the subject if you’re interested. They are about intersexed births, then The Nature of Love regarding the sexual behaviors in the animal kingdoms.

            Warm regards! 🙂


        • Peter,

          First I applaud you for divulging your genuine honesty about this struggle. For you and Brandon I want to suggest two posts I’ve made about the questions of human homosexuality and in Nature, in the animal kingdom. First, the issue of intersexed births, in other words human babies that are born with BOTH types of genitals…and hence, born the way God(?) intended? That post is Sexual & Gender Ambiguity: My Once Gross Ignorance.

          Second, but not the only post on the subject, is The Nature of Love. It gets more into the Natural evidence of animal homosexuality.

          If you two would like more posts on the subject, I can direct you there. Or feel free to Google-search intersexed births and animal bisexuality/homonsexuality. There’s PLENTY of information available! 🙂


      • Brandon,

        I do appreciate the compliment; thank you. I am also pleased you are considering closer broader examinations of homosexuality (including as much of Nature and all animals possible and their sexual behaviors?), Quantum Physics/Mechanics, the origins and extensive historical context of Xian theology, today’s evolving global demographics — the Earth is becoming “SMALL” fast — and Xian eschatology (THAT subject is massive when considering its Jewish origins coupled with Jewish Messianism!) and then other fields of study! I wish I could tell you that your endeavor will take you only 1 or 2 short years to complete, but that would be a horrendous lie. LOL 😛

        Honestly, due to life’s requirements of family, job, kids, etc, etc, all in limited time in windows of opportunity, it took me well over 18-years to adequately complete if you truly want to research & study all of those necessary subjects you listed and other subjects & fields you will certainly come across. It’s a massive undertaking my friend, but obviously a very important one if you wish to be a man of humble principle and integrity with your human family. We are an emotional gregarious species who sometimes doesn’t take kindly to being wrong or fooled and no one wants to be put up on the classroom’s Dunce-stool. 😉

        A tip for you Brandon, if I may. I found my long years of study best done by myself, in a quiet room, away from everyone and definitely any of those who wished to sway me in one direction or another. Why? Because we are emotional beings influenced by sales and marketing techniques of the 21st century. LOL Time permitting, do your best to fairly consider ALL scholar’s POV’s including the opposing ones. Try to set aside (temporarily) our natural inclinations of turning our self-centered perceptions, our own small individual worlds, into Universal truths. Push to be neutral. In the end, you will find your decision to be more tranquil.

        Bon voyage Brandon! It should be a most exciting journey… YOUR journey! 🙂


        • Professor, sorry for a late reply, thanks for imparting your wisdom. I think you are correct, these subjects are vast and it is important to consider as many points of view as possible in order to come to the best conclusion. It’s daunting, but certainly worth it for someone hungry for truth. Also, thanks for your comments on my reply to Peter. I definitely need to read the blog posts you linked.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting stuff. Is this your area of research then for your Master’s Thesis? You are a historian? I read the book Jesus Interrupted before by Bart Erhman, I am sure you have too. I found it interesting and informative (although I find his writing style a bit repetitive). What I learned from that, is that whether there is a God or not, the bible was never really meant to be taken literally, but much more as inspirational. The strains of biblical literalism in this country are bewildering when you look at the historical bible.

    It has always seemed strange to me that we should put stock in a book written nearly 2000 years ago (or more for the old testament) given how much the world has changed. I think from an intellectual standpoint, my path to atheism was paved by the logical and moral inconsistencies that Christians have to go through to support their belief system. “Why do is it okay for you to have tattoos even though the bible says you can’t?” “Oh…that’s the old testament. Jesus brought the ‘new’ law and the old testament is just for Jews”. “Okay then why do you have a problem with homosexuality given that Jesus never preached against it?” “Well the old testament says…”. Christians take and leave parts of the bible all the time and in a way you can say for good reason. Because a lot of it makes no sense anymore for the times that we live in. How can something so old be a guide for anybody’s life today? Hell I think that our constitution is outdated too, and that’s only 200 years old.

    As I was reading about the other Messiah’s it made me think a lot about Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the market place where there are a line of prophets all preaching their philosophies trying to gain


    • Is this your area of research then for your Master’s Thesis? You are a historian?

      It will be Swarn, a Master’s of Liberal Studies at SMU — Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. You added, “…the bible was never really meant to be taken literally, but much more as inspirational. The strains of biblical literalism in this country are bewildering when you look at the historical bible.” I could not agree more! With the exception of the Christian clergy who typically study a level of apologetics, MOST common believers/followers are oblivious to the contextual history of the creation of the Old and New Testaments. The majority aren’t even aware what the description “Canonical Bible” means! :/

      Christians take and leave parts of the bible all the time and in a way you can say for good reason.

      Oh, that personal choosing against “God’s inspired inerrant Word/Scripture” (laws?) usually goes against EVERY theological edict their very own church adheres to and preaches! I find that an extraordinary paradox; some people call it flat-out hypocricy. Yet, I must remind myself every once in awhile I was once one of those hardcore Fundies too. I try my best to show patience, some humor, and respect for their current spot in their life’s journey.

      I LOVE Monty Python’s Life of Brian! Can watch that & other MP’s a hundred times and never get tired of them! 😛


  7. Pingback: Origins and Orthodoxy | Professor Taboo

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