Some Q&A for Friends

Recently I was asked by my friend and fellow-blogger Scottie a question about history and historical fables, more specifically comparisons of historical-religious fables. His question was:

About the whole virgin-birth story before Jesus thing. Ark hinted it was an issue. I read online where it is true. But [Pastoral Apologist] claims they have all been debunked. When I first started talking with  [Pastoral Apologist] about it, he made statements that made me think the virgin birth idea was very unknown at the time. Then I find websites saying it was very common. I was wondering if you had any studies this before or had some ideas of where I should concentrate my study of it. I know Aron Ra has said that there are similarities between the Jesus story and other myths, but I didn’t realize he was talking virgin-births. To me that is a total game changer on that story if it was a common god-idea. Hugs

Initially I was planning to address Scottie’s question(s) right there in the comments of Jim’s blog-post “How to Separate the Facts from the Myths?” However, after some discussion Jim and I decided that if we placed it in the comments it would soon be eternally buried within the cyber-sphere’s archiving. We both thought this was too important to be so quickly lost. Hence, he convinced me to post it here where it won’t get as buried. Hahaha. So here we go…
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My Response

Scottie, very often Christian apologists/pastors like to portray their foundational doctrines/theology as incomparable, as dissimilar to any other religious or spiritual constructs. This is unequivocally slight-of-hand. Skeptics are not claiming the virgin stories and legends are identical, or verbatim. Every culture has its own unique twists to trade wind exchanges. As a terrestrial or seafaring example, the Silk Road trade routes (c. 500 BCE until 542 CE with the Bubonic Plague) provided some early means for religious-cultural exchanges well before Jesus’ time and beyond. At the pinnacle of Rome’s influence around the Mediterranean, they were wealthy not only because of their great war-machines, generals, legions, and tactics against other empires and hordes, but also because of their 1.9 million-mile sphere-of-influence in commerce by 117 CE. Over that time the cultural identities and exchanges mixed and transformed into new versions, not unlike the United States is sometimes referred to as The Melting Pot of the World. Christianity, in its current Greco-Roman styled canon, does mimic in numerous forms other older Persian, Arabian, Egyptian, and Greek divinity traditions.

To your question, I will address it in two ways: 1) the popular historical records of virgin-mothers and virgin-born Gods prior to Jesus, and 2) the 4th and 5th century CE Greco-Roman Christian theological one-upping.

Known histories of virgin-mothers and births before Jesus:
It must be remembered that skeptics are not claiming that ancient stories of virgin-mothers and virgin-born Gods are verbatim-identical to the well-known Jesus virgin-mother and virgin-birth story. What most are claiming are the numerous similarities that cannot be denied. Here are several that were known throughout the ancient world BEFORE Jesus. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Marduk by Damkina/Enki — Sumerian-Mesopotamian mythology c. 4500 – c. 1900 BCE.
  • Horace by Isis/Osiris — Egyptian mythology c. 3150 – c. 2615 BCE.
  • Amenhotep III by Mutemwiya/Amun — Egyptian mythology c. 1388 – c. 1200 BCE.
  • Isaac by Sarah/Abraham — Jewish tradition/mythology c. 2000 – c. 1000 BCE.
  • Melchizedek by Sopanima/Nir — Jewish tradition/mythology c. 500 – C. 400 BCE.
  • Zarathustra by Dughdova/Shaft of light — Persian mythology c. 1375 – c. 330 BCE.
  • Erechtheus by Gaia/Hephaestus — Greek mythology c. 500 – c. 285 BCE.
  • Dionysus by Semele/Zeus — Greek mythology c. 1500 – c. 1100 BCE.
  • Romulus-Remus by Rhea Silvia/Mars — Roman mythology c. 700 BCE – 220 CE.

Ancient fables of divine births and intervention were exchanged by traders and teachers/sages all throughout the vast Roman Empire. Those stories were passed from generation to generation. Due to several sociopolitical (including wars and genocide) and socioeconomic factors, some gained popularity, others faded. Historians not only see this in the archaeological and paleographical evidence, they accept and superimpose this template of evolution on their studies and theories. Christian apologists/pastors prefer not to, at least not cumulatively.

It is worthy to note that according to the College of Pontiffs and Indigitamenta there are no records or evidence from the early 1st-century that a divine god or demigod was newly born of a virgin during Augustus’ reign in the Roman Province of Palestina. However, by the late 2nd century CE the Christian Church Fathers systematically sought to discredit Roman deities and worship.

The Greco-Roman Christian theological one-upping:
The first mention in manuscripts of Jesus’ virgin-birth is about 80 – 90 CE in order to connect him as the Christian Messiah in Isaiah 7:14. Because the Apostle Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, was a Hellenistic educated Jewish Pharisee prior to his paranormal experience on the Road to Damascus (c. 35 CE?), and he was proselytizing to Gentiles unfamiliar with ancient Jewish Messianism, early controversy and confusion about Original Sin and Final Atonement (hereafter called OS/FA) began to pop-up in many Synagogues — official Christian churches didn’t arrive until much later. Many earliest “The Way” followers were Jewish-reformers, later becoming Judeo-Christians. This unpopular history is critical to understand because no matter how hard post-5th century CE Christianity to modern-day Christians want to distinguish themselves away from Jewish Messianism, it is utterly impossible. If they want to have their Messianic Christ, they must embrace (hijack?) true historical Jewish Messianism in its entirety.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, written c. 64 CE, gives us one of the very first indications of the OS/FA controversy among earliest Believers:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:19-23)

In other words, if 2nd – 3rd century CE Christianity is going to legitimately lay claim to Jewish Messianism, and Jesus is both an Earthly born Messiah as well as a sinless holy God, how did the Apostolic Fathers reconcile this dilemma? The author of Hebrews explains a Jewish version of a virgin-mother birthing a virgin-son of God and eventual “better sacrifice” — an early attempt laden with Jewish priestly Messianism.

However, as the new religion spread with the fading and literal wiping-out of Sectarian Judaism (Jewish reformers and first Judeo-Christians) around the Roman Empire, e.g. the Great Revolts of Judea, more unknowing Gentiles asked challenging questions reflecting the confusion. The letter to the Hebrews was still not enough. And there is still the gnawing problems presented by deadly revolts and chronology. Did Jesus himself ever teach he was born by a virgin? No. Did the Apostle Paul ever teach Jesus was born by a virgin-mother? No. This strongly suggests that the OS/FA controversy began developing among first Judeo-Christians prior to 64 CE, but not widespread enough by 67 CE when Paul wrote his very last letter 2 Timothy from Rome. The OS/FA obscurity during this time-period can be contributed to the Roman “X-Fretensis” Legion, “V-Macedonica”  Legion, “XII-Fulminata” Legion, and “XV-Apollinarus” Legion wiping-out many sectarian-reformed Jews in the Great Revolts of Judea. This created the void for Gentile-favored Greco-Roman (Hellenistic) theology to be further established by the 1st and 2nd generation Church Fathers.

Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Eusebius of Caesarea
Clement of Alexandria lived between c. 150 – c. 215 in Athens, Asia Minor, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, Egypt. He is considered one of the Church Fathers. In his work called Paedagogus, Clement explains that Christ (the Greek-Hellenistic name) is sinless and born in the impeccable image of God through the virgin Mary.

Tertullian lived between c. 150 – c. 225 in Carthage in the Roman Province of Africa. Tertullian is famous for two reasons:  1) his coining of the word Trinity which made its way into the early Church’s Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and/or the Athanasian Creed, and 2) his fiery temperament and forceful convictions that eventually radicalized him into Montanist heresy. Both of these Trinitarian theologies were derived from Stoic philosophy and Clement of Alexandria and less so from the author of Hebrews.

Eusebius of Caesarea lived from c. 263 – c. 340 in Caesarea Maritima in Roman Palestine. In his work Historia Ecclesiae, Eusebius points out two types of Jewish sectarian Ebionites. One denied the virgin-birth and virgin-mother, and the other did not. But he labeled both groups of Ebionites as heretical. Because Eusebius draws distinctions between these two Ebionite groups, his knowledge of them clearly comes from Irenaeus, Origen, and Hippolytus using apocryphal sources.

What should be cumulatively noted here is the evolving heavy influence and retro-fitting of Hellenistic, or Greco-Roman philosophy/theology in the roots of the 4th century New Testament canon and 5th century CE Christian Church. It was having to address long-standing conflicting, confusing teachings and questions that were not addressed adequately in the time of Paul’s letters and life, nor answered by the heir apparent Jesus/Christós — at the time, the questions were completely unnecessary and non-existent! Why? If Jesus and Paul never addressed the controversies of the virgin-birth by a virgin-mother in the arena of the later OS/FA debates, does that suggest the Greco-Roman Church — which is the ancestral majority of modern Christian churches and seminaries, many with very contrasting doctrines — did not understand, or did not favor, or intentionally distorted true Jewish Messianism to serve their man-made sociopolitical agenda?

I believe so, for the overwhelming reason that the anti-Semitism motive fits near perfectly into historical Greco-Roman-Hellenistic sociopolitical and religious traditions. The later Christian Church wants to separate itself as much as possible from Judaism.

∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼

Scottie, I hope this post helps despite its very hasty composure. As I mentioned, I also want to give a source for you to better understand the earliest transitions from true Jewish Messianism to sectarian Judeo-reformers and finally into the monster of Greco-Roman Christology. I would start with Robert Eisenman at his website. Be sure to checkout his Articles page. And if you can gain access to two of his books, Dead Sea Scrolls & The First Christians and The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christyou will be well on your way to an extensive, intimate knowledge of exactly when and how Greco-Roman Christology, that is propagandizing and erroneously taught today, went wrong and subsequently setup its minefield of a never-ending fracturing, disunited religion.

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Origins and Orthodoxy

The six of us were all sitting around the kitchen table discussing time-travel and the effects of gravity on time itself. A good friend of the family repeated once again what she had stated earlier, “It is all merely philosophy and theory.” The word speculation would probably have been another word she would have approved and used. My political and respectful(?) response was “But how will we learn and know if we don’t GET OUT THERE and collect the actual data?” She agreed.

You see, our sweet good friend comes from a long maternal ancestral line of Protestant evangelical fundamental Christian indoctrination. She has not known any other lifestyle or worldview her entire life of 32-years. Because of this and also where I currently reside — the Hill Country towns of central Texas and nearer a few of my extended family — I am confronted daily or weekly with this religious mindset and way of life which they automatically assume to be true and right from generations after generations, after generations. I ask… should we not get out there, explore, examine, scrutinize, and always ask the hardest questions in order to arrive at the most plausible truths? I think so.

From 1983 to 2002 “getting out there” was exactly what I set out to do regarding a real God, the Christian bible, then the Hebrew bible, and more recently the Quran. This post and some of my other related blog-posts are what I discovered over those 19-years and counting. This post is another condensed study and research from those years based on 20 scholars listed in this supporting Bibliography Library-Page, as well as my personal experiences with fundamental Christian evangelists, extended family, apologists and one particular Hindi futeboller from Kashmir, India. My purpose for writing another post about biblical fundamentalism, particularly Christian, is simple. Share with the public and anyone interested just how few questions are asked about the roots of earliest Christianity under the contextual dominance of the early through late epochs of the Imperial Roman Empire. It is safe to assume that mainstream Christianity, if not church leadership too, are naïve of their own faith’s history and origins.
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The Nature of God?

How does a person learn who God is, what She/He/It is like, and how do we know it is truly God and not some imposter or auditory or visual hallucination? This question of course presupposes that a God exists in the first place. Ignoring this a priori step in the process of logic and reasoning would be a serious mistake. However, for the sake of time and subject matter, I will not go into the existence or non-existence of God. For a plethora of reasons much of the world believes God or a Supreme Being exists anyway.

Therefore, assuming a God(s) does exist, how can we know this God? Morgan Freeman’s recent National Geographic mini-series The Story of God was pretty well received by audiences and critics as Freeman and his team traveled the world gathering various cultural perspectives of God. I Google-searched the question “How can we know God?” and it returned these first 10 resources, out of about 483,000,000 results:

“How to Know God Personally —

What does it take to begin a relationship with God? Devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Become a better person so that God will accept you?

You may be surprised that none of those things will work. But God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him.

The following principles will explain how you can personally begin a relationship with God, right now, through Jesus Christ…”

(from the Campus Crusade for Christ International website)

From the Joyce Meyer Ministries website “Everyday Answers”…

“There was a time in my life when I struggled with all types of fears and insecurities, constantly worried about the future, my job, my ministry, and my family. Needless to say, I wasn’t really enjoying my life!

However, over time, the Lord helped me to change… and He helped me understand an important key to truly enjoying life. It all begins with what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:10… something I believe we should all pray regularly…

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him…understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly]…” (AMP).”

From the Got Questions Ministries website

“How can I get to know God better?” —

Answer: Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God; most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4). — by J.I. Packer

(the next 7 paragraphs reference the Christian bible 13-times)

From the In Touch Ministries website

“Getting To Know God” —

Did you know God wants to show you more of Himself every day? Does your time with the Lord revitalize you, or does it feel more like a ritualistic experience? In Hosea 6:6, God is clear: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

(the next 6 directives reference the Christian bible 3-times)

From the Every Student website

“What does it take to begin a relationship with God? —

Wait for lightning to strike? Devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Become a better person so that God will accept you? NONE of these. God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him. This will explain how you can personally begin a relationship with God, right now…”

(the rest of the page references the Christian bible 16-times)

And jumping to the 10th result on the Harvest Ministries website

“Know God —

You were created to know God in a personal way—to have a relationship with Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ. How do you start a relationship with God?”

(the following 4 step procedure references the Christian bible in every step)

peggy-and-godNoticing the pattern? The bible, the bible, the bible, and repeatedly the bible apparently has all the answers to knowing God. There doesn’t seem to be any tangible physical meeting of God where you actually see God, or hear Her/His/Its voice, you cannot call God up for an interview, nor is there a global standard of where to find God or how to find God’s collective global nature from any of these websites… except, in the Bible.

This has been my own experience when asking faith-followers these questions about God. In other words, the more people asked, there seems to be more than just one simple version of God! Hmmm. Maybe what should be asked is what “version” of God is most popular in the world?

According to www.Adherents.com and other sources, the world’s largest religion by population is Christianity (2.1 billion), followed by Islam (1.5 billion), then the Non-religious or unaffiliated (1.1 billion), Hinduism (900 million), Chinese Traditional (394 million), and Buddhism at 376 million respectively. As a result of popularity then, let’s look more closely at the Christian version of knowing God. How can it be done?
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Divine Revelation?

Throughout the lore and archaeological evidence of humans, when a divine spirit or Supreme Beings disclosed themselves to people, or something about existence, or about the world, in theological terms that is often defined as revelation. Because video and audio technology did not exist 50,000 years ago when forms of verbal human language began, and institutionalized morality only began long after around 10,200 BCE in the Neolithic Period, we cannot know the types of divine revelations that took place. Prior to the start of human writing (cuneiform) 5,000 years ago or around 3,000 BCE, there was still no video or audio technology available to literally record gods or God. Only rituals, song and dance, and oral traditions passed to descendants in various chiefdoms and tribes in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, and Mesopotamia were the way to know about God or gods.

Kesh-temple-hymn-tablet

Kesh Temple Hymn tablet

Today, one of the oldest known religious texts is the Kesh Temple Hymn from ancient Sumer which dates to around 2,600 BCE. Yet, other than Sumerian admonishments the hymn offers only glimpses and inference into their gods. The other oldest religious text — the Egyptian Pyramid Texts — was carved into the walls of the pyramids at Saqqarah and date to around ca. 2400–2300 BCE. However, these Egyptian texts do not reveal any specific ways to know the gods other than again by inference.

As a result of very very ancient oral traditions or storytelling, and very ancient cuneiform inferences, both from an area of the ancient world covering over 1.5 million sq. miles, how then do Christians today really know God? Are all of them experts in palaeography and epigraphy and their interpretations? Of course not. Do they speak regularly with those deceased Neolithic Sumerian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian storytellers, or ancient Hebrew, Arabian, or Greek orators? Of course not. It would be wise, therefore, to better understand what exactly it is and why Christians place so much unquestioning faith and belief in 1) a religion based on ancient storytelling, 2) widespread fluid (imprecise) cuneiform art, 3) a couple or three very small Hebrew tribes from the ancient Middle East, and followed by 4) more letters and stories about a man’s life and teachings recorded 60 to 110 years AFTER the actual events occurred in the 2nd century CE.

Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent

Yet, despite this precarious framework of revelation, a great number of evangelical fundamental Christians would disagree with my above assessment. Why?
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Special Communion

They disagree because they and apparently 2.1 billion in the world proclaim that God CAN be known. They disagree because God has made Herself/Himself/Itself available to be communed with through two or more methods. If anyone can list and explain more than these two methods, please feel free to share in the comments below! Nevertheless, take a large enough sample of those 2.1 billion Christ-believers — similar to hearing a complete sentence on the trading-floor of the New York Stock Exchange during heavy screaming — and one can start to narrow the methods down. I will borrow from Theopedia.com to explain…

  • General Communion/Revelation – “Also known as Universal revelation, general revelation deals with how God can be understood through his creation. More specifically, this can be manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history.
  • Special Communion/Revelation – “is distinguished from general revelation in that it is direct revelation from God. Examples include God’s direct speech to various people (e.g., prophets; cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21), the incarnation (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2), and the Bible. Such revelation is sufficient to communicate the gospel, unlike general revelation, and thus salvation is possible only through special revelation.

Is General Communion/Revelation adequate to authenticate evidence of a God as Christians claim from Romans 1:19-20? The controversy over this religious tenet versus human reasoning (science?) started way before 2nd century CE Christianity and as early as the 7th century BCE in Mesopotamia by Assyrian and Babylonian astronomers.

Total-lunar-eclipse-moonThe lethal controversy was over the purpose or reason for lunar eclipses. The Assyrian-Babylonian priests believed that lunar eclipses were evil omens and vindictive restlessness of the gods directed against their kings. However, due to hundreds of centuries of recorded astronomical data, by the 1st century BCE Babylonian astronomers knew an upcoming lunar eclipse would happen on May 28th, 585 BCE at sunset. In fact, their mathematical calculations were accurate within a couple of minutes! The astronomers had calculated the 18 year and 11.3 day (223 synodic month) interval between lunar eclipses. This suggested that the eclipses had a natural (scientific) cause. If lunar eclipses were predictable, then the Babylonians could appoint a temporary king (likely through coercion) who would accept the horrible wrath of the gods, thus saving the real king from a death-omen.

The most famous controversy of church tenets versus human reasoning and mathematics was between Galileo Galilei (1564-1642 CE) and the second organized Christian church, the Roman Catholic Church. As most already know, Galileo was tried and convicted as a heretic by the church for his correct Heliocentric system of our solar system. It made no difference though, God’s Holy Church and Testaments infalleably ruled. It wasn’t until over 350 years after Galileo’s death that the church addressed their ‘mishap‘:

“… Pope John Paul II gave an address on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he admitted that errors had been made by the theological advisors in the case of Galileo. He declared the Galileo case closed, but he did not admit that the Church was wrong to convict Galileo on a charge of heresy …”
National Center for Biotechnology Information, October 1992

Therefore, given that the physical world has not and cannot be wholly described at a moment in time as monistic evidence, or substance monism/Neoplatonism, for evidence of God — i.e. one creation by one source during the sixth day of creation while new species are being discovered and others going extinct every decade or century — this leaves us with only Special Communion/Revelation to know God.

As stated by Theopedia and most Christian-believers, Special Communion/Revelation is their firm foundation for knowing and experiencing the Judeo-Christian God. This communion has three components:

  1. Direct speech – through past and present prophets carried by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).
  2. The Incarnation – through the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  3. Holy Bible – a communal collection of ancient writings breathed by God which comprise the sixty-six books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

For the sake of my reader’s time and mine, I will make brief comments on the first two special-revelation components which I hope will cause anyone to examine or reexamine their dubious implications. Following those comments we will finally delve into the origins and developments of the Christian Bible.

joshua-jerichoDirect speech
By popular definition prophets hear or sense the voice of God directly then obey. Innumerable documented examples reside both in ancient and modern history. About 1,550 BCE the prophet Joshua was told by God to go conquer the land and people across the Jordan River (Joshua 1:1-6), killing all the men, women, and children (Joshua 6:21). After Jericho was razed, on the further commands of God Joshua then razed the town of Ai, killing 12,000 men and women (Joshua 8:24-28). Genocide is not the only command by God either, mass suicide is also spoken by God to the more faithful zealous followers. At the fortress of Masada in 73 CE led by the apocalyptic prophet Eleazar ben Yair, though details are debateable, 960 Jewish revolutionaries committed suicide/murder for their God rather than endure enslavement by Rome.

Jones-Koresh

Jones (left) and Koresh

In modern history three iconic prophets also followed God’s direct speech for mass suicide of all their most faithful zealous followers. They do not need any elaboration here. They were Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana (Nov. 1978) of 918 followersnearly 300 were childrenMarshall Applewhite in Rancho Santa Fe, CA (March 1997) convincing 39 followers, and David Koresh in Waco, TX (April 1993) leading 85 followers — 22 of them children/teenagers — to their mass suicide/incineration.

In a 2007 co-authored article by Erich Follath (diplomatic journalist), Manfred Müller, Ulrich Schwarz (theologian), and Stefan Simons (Spiegel Online correspondent) entitled Following Divine Orders which focuses on the Age Old irresistible appeal of religiosity for fanatics, or rather those who are not moderate or “luke warm” about their beliefs:

“According to the three Abrahamic faiths, God only revealed the truth about Himself, humankind and the world to their respective religion; it is therefore recorded separately in their holy scriptures: the Hebrew Bible (the Torah, or Old Testament to Christians), the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Koran.

These [bibles] contain countless contradictions. Both the Koran and the Bible’s Old and New Testaments bear witness to a good and merciful God. They urge humans to live in peace and harmony. This is reflected most clearly in the instruction attributed to Jesus in the Hebrew Bible: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.

But these messages of brotherhood clash with sentiments that condone intolerance and violence: “For I came to set a son against his father, a daughter against her mother …“; “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me“; “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The prophet Mohammed also delivered harsh threats from Allah: “Fear the fire prepared for the infidels.

Throughout history, the Abrahamic religions’ claim of absolute authority has exerted an irresistible appeal on fanatics, encouraging them to impose their own faith on nonbelievers and dissidents alike – if need be by using fire and the sword. To this day, nearly all religions supply the kindling that fuels wars and acts of persecution, sparks torture and murder, and inflames ethnic hatred. Examples abound: the bloody wars between Hindus and Muslims in India, or the enmity between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia.

For centuries, it seemed that the Abrahamic religions had come to terms with – and discarded – extremism. In the case of Christianity, this dates back to the Enlightenment, when the symbiosis between church and state collapsed and a new system of ethics emerged – one that was independent of faith in God and derived solely from social consensus.”

Those above examples of ancient and modern direct divine revelation seriously beg the questions What exactly is the Holy Spirit and how is it (a prophet) accurately tested for authenticity? Anyone who wishes to answer these questions, good luck! I do NOT envy you. There are as many various definitions of the Holy Spirit/False Prophet debate by Christians as there are species and sub-species in the animal kingdom! It is truly unimaginable. Suffice it to say here that almost all Christ-believers, scholars and laypersons alike, ultimately and exclusively refer to their Bibles for definitive Holy Spirit or non-Holy Spirit answers. Naturally, that only leads to more questions. Therefore, “direct speech” is not a religious consensus to really knowing God.

Greek-soccer-fans

Greek soccer fans

It is worth mentioning, the fields of psychology, neurology, and sociology have many theoretical studies associating heightened religious behaviour due to Temporal lobe epilepsy and minor forms of schizophrenia, and sociologists have found that social God-constructs can persuade individuals into states of euphoria because of large numbers of people acting together in a strongly shared belief — crowd psychology. Huge sporting events are good examples of this phenomena. Extreme isolation can have similar effects of hyper-religiosity and paranormal hallucinations, sometimes negative.

The Incarnation
In theological terms, this is simply God in and as Jesus Christ; both God and man simultaneously. The first grave problem with this Christian doctrine is that it is based upon only “Christian-biased” historical sources and traditions riddled with inconsistencies. In other words, who and what Jesus of Nazareth was historically between 6-4 BCE and 30-36 CE, the generally agreed upon lifespan, cannot be verified with absolute certainty outside of the Christian Synoptic Gospels. Many Christian apologists vehemently claim that writings by Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and Tacitus are non-Christian evidence for the historicity of Jesus. F. Josephus, however, was not completely unbiased about the new Jesus-Movement called The Way by Judean-Christians; he too was involved in 1st century CE Jewish Messianism as a Pharisee. Pliny and Tacitus were indeed Roman and non-Christian, but their very brief mentions are about Christians as a whole, rather than a biography about a specific person named Jesus.

Therefore, the best that Christian-believers can hope for regarding an actual verifiable incarnation of God through Jesus of Nazareth is by Christian scribes and followers 30-90 years after his death based on oral-storytelling traditions. That is the closest that honest scholarship can provide at this time, and beyond that is a question of individual faith within crowd psychology. This now leaves us only with the Bible… what the doctrines of Direct speech and The Incarnation frequently must reference anyway.
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The Canonical Bible

Many modern Christians are unaware of the origins, early development, and the 2nd and 3rd century CE controversies surrounding the final compilation of their Bibles. Some believers might even think their bible suddenly dropped out of heaven long long ago after God finished writing the 66 books, never thinking to ask “Why just 66 books? Why not 40 or 10 simple books?” And honestly, orthodoxed American society today, including many Christians, know very little of the ancient world of Jesus, the Levant, and the Fertile Crescent.

First_century_Iudaea_province

click here to enlarge

The birthplace of Jesus was Judea, the Jewish province ruled by Rome. Divided by intense religious factionalism, the people of Judea, as well as Galilee, Idumea, Nabatea, and Perea were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Messiah and God’s salvation. First century CE Romans would have encountered a large mix of traditions and philosophies in this world. The Hebrews had for many centuries suffered foreign invasions and been harshly buffeted by powerful external cultural forces. The most potent of these was Alexander the Great’s Greek civilization supported by several centuries of Hellenistic overlords in Egypt and Syria.

The Jews in these regions were divided over subjects ranging from the legitimacy of the priesthood to the acceptance of certain books into the Hebrew Canon. The Essenes rejected the priesthood entirely. Samaritans formulated their own unique doctrines. Various cadres of Jewish zealots pledged themselves to the expulsion of the Romans. Sadducees made up their prestige with the aristocratic clans making up the priesthood in Jerusalem and exclusive supervision of the Temple. They rejected the books of the Prophets and Writings and also became more ingratiated with Herod and Roman governors who eventually granted them local rule in the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were more progressive than the Sadducees in that they not only accepted those books, but also believed in angels, demons, resurrection, and — like the Essenes and other groups — passionately in the coming of the Messiah, e.g. the Apostle Paul. The Pharisees also had grown a body of unrecorded commentary on Hebrew Scriptures and rulings by Jewish sages. This was intended to help Jews adapt the ancient Law of Moses to the circumstances of their own time.

Essentially, roots of the Christian New Testament began during this period of great Jewish disunity, alienation, isolation, and confusion before anything Christian was written down. Once Christ-followers began recording an anthology or testaments of Jesus’ parables, prophetic and wisdom teachings, and exhortations — by around 150 CE (over a century after Jesus’ death) — there was no less than 42 testaments or gospels for Christian teachings which were freely circulating as opposed to just 27-books in today’s New Testament. The formulation of the Hebrew Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, went through similar reconfigurations between 500 BCE and 70 CE, i.e. approximately 600 years!

Naturally, all this diversity and variety of who and what the Nazarene was caused more confusing fractures among outlying Christians and Judean-Christians for centuries! It is like trying to answer What is an American?” today in one single description from 324+ million citizens. To learn more about the various origins of Nazarene-Nasorean-Nasara, go here to my bibliography subpage: The Nasara Party.

map_Roman-Empire_14-117CE

1st & 2nd century Roman Empire

Authoritative or Not Authoritative? 
For over three and a half centuries (between 337 and 389 years!) after Jesus’ death, there existed no standardized written collection about Jesus’ ministry or precisely what he did or taught. Everything known about him (and not known) was by word-of-mouth across 2,000 sq. miles. What is more dubious and astounding is that what little there was written down about Jesus’ message was by a foreigner, a Hellenistic Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus who had never once met Jesus in the flesh, in person. No surprise, after Saul’s ‘paranormal conversion‘ to “The Way” on the road to Damascus, he fell into serious conflict with the Council of Jerusalem headed by Jesus’s next-in-line brother James, Peter, Cornelius, and other Judean-Christian leaders who had personally known Jesus quite well compared to Saul. Yet, today Pauline-Christianity (aka Saul) predominates the New Testament, seminaries, and modern churches. James Tabor, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, writes about this heavy influence from a near total stranger to the Jerusalem leaders… and their and Jesus’ Neo-Jewish teachings. Tabor states:

The fundamental doctrinal tenets of Christianity, namely that Christ is God “born in the flesh,” that his sacrificial death atones for the sins of humankind, and that his resurrection from the dead guarantees eternal life to all who believe, can be traced back to Paul — not to Jesus…

In contrast, the original Christianity before Paul is somewhat difficult to find in the New Testament, since Paul’s 13 letters predominate and Paul heavily influences even our four Gospels. Fortunately, in the letter of James, attributed to the brother of Jesus, as well as in a collection of the sayings of Jesus now embedded in the Gospel of Luke (the source scholars call Q), we can still get a glimpse of the original teachings of Jesus…

What we have preserved in this precious document is a reflection of the original apocalyptic proclamation of Jesus: the “Gospel of the kingdom of God” with its political and social implications.
Christianity Before Paul, The Huffington Post, November 2012 cited Aug. 16, 2016 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-d-tabor/christianity-before-paul_b_2200409.html

With this and other additional alternative extant evidence, one has to ask “What formula was used some 300-years later to configure and reconfigure the vast oral and written testaments/gospels of Jesus?” Hitherto is a list of the most significant testaments/gospels about Jesus of/the Nazareth/Nazarene out of approx. 130 known writings not present in the New Testament today:

Non-Canonical Writings (Incomplete)

For a more complete list of the many known writings of Jesus and his earliest followers, go to the NNU Wesley Center’s page of Non-Canonical Literature.

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Apostolic Fathers and the Canon Formula

Signs that much of these various Jesus-literatures had been accepted as authoritative by church leaders and early Christian congregations as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries CE appear in the letters of the Apostolic Fathers. During these centuries of the new upcoming churches, no official creed or universally accepted liturgy existed. In the following paragraphs, notice the similarities from the first churches to modern-day Christian churches.

The biggest and most heated controversy was a newer version of an old Jewish sectarian problem:  Are the Hebrew Laws, Prophets, and Writings above, below, or void in light of Paul’s Hellenistic teachings — deeds or faith? Another ongoing spinoff debate was the Gnostic challenge:  There are two dualistic worlds and two Gods, and there was no Incarnation, explained as follows:

  • The World of Darkness was created by an inferior God, the Hebrew God, and so the Hebrew scriptures were rejected or severely de-emphasized.
  • Material aspects of this Dark World, including the human body, were burdens that humanity was forced to endure by the Hebrew God.
  • The World of Light and Knowledge was ruled by a Supreme Being. Salvation was possible only through gnosis of this divine world and the Supreme Being’s mysteries, but salvation was available only to some, not all. Some Gnostics had a three-tiered class system too.
  • There was No Incarnation because he was not the Son of the inferior Hebrew God, nor did he become a man, suffer human pain, or die on a cross. Resurrection was merely a spiritual linking of the soul with the World of Light and had nothing to do with a human body.

Because Pauline Orthodoxy had the support of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, and their power and influences of those churches and bishops, by the 4th century CE the Gnostics would quickly be labelled heretics and harshly hunted down and most all their holy literature burned. With the four strongest episcopal sees in the Roman Empire, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Hermas, and their colleagues along with their heavy power and influence… the weaker episcopal sees around the Empire and the remaining Jewish-Christians in and around Jerusalem simply could not stand up to the might of Hellenistic Constantinian Rome.
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Victors and Emperors Always Make the “Authoritative” Laws and Histories

Walter Benjamin posited that “History is written by the victors.” Historical records of major social, national, economic, ethnic, or religious upheavals and cleansings bear this philosophy out to some/large degrees. And so with his maternal-influenced-miracle-based sanction of the “official” Christianity, Emperor Constantine not only led the Roman Empire, but was also Head (Pope?) of the Church. He called for unity as a whole within the Church and agreement on its scriptures. Easier said than done inside one of history’s largest empires.

There were no less than seven failed attempts to form an official universal Bible. On the eighth failed attempt by Eusebius of Caesarea at the request of Emperor Constantine, Eusebius’ rejection of the popular Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Matthias; the Acts of Andrew, of Paul and of John; the Shepard of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas; the Didache, 1 and 2 Clement; and the Apocalypse of Peter… got his configuration rejected (see Table of Canonical Debate below). His reasons for classifying certain texts as questionable or spurious had revealed the basic formula for inclusion. Probably more important for him was a writing’s perceived apostolic authorship, though its antiquity and orthodoxy were also of significant consequence. Study closely the following table…

Table Canonical Debate

Athanasius of Alexandria wrote his Easter letter to the churches and monasteries in his diocese identifying the books they were to include in the testaments. Athanasius was one of the more flamboyant patriarchs. He was exiled from his pentarchy five times leading back to the Council of Nicaea due to his unyielding defense and decisions to compromise with other Roman patriarchs (which at times included Eusebius) over controversial points of Christian doctrine. His canon had been later confirmed by the church in Rome in 405 CE, in 393 at Hippo Regius in North Africa, and in Carthage twice, in 397 and then again after the growing Gnostic churches in 419 CE in reaction to the intensifying debate regarding James, Jude, and Hebrews. The Syrians used the Diatessaron as their canon for another 50-years. The Ethiopian church continues to this day to recognize a book of Clement and several other non-canonical books of liturgy. Though the various pentarchy churches had made ground toward unity, it is important to know they were never in absolute agreement on the New Testament canon and Christian doctrines.

Notice from the above Table how even the seven Patriarchs, who were themselves understudies to the Apostolic Fathers, after 300 years still did NOT completely agree on what God’s Son, the Messiah, and the new and old messages was suppose to mean to all people. Yet Constantine, his bishops, and propraetors had to have orthodoxy — a long standing Greco-Roman political tradition.

It wasn’t until around 400-419 CE and centuries of compromise and more compromise that the final configuration of the Christian New Testament was officially closed — closed by the declaration of the Emperor, put into law, and enforced by the torches and swords of his Roman Legions. For a God who is proclaimed as omnipotent, omniscient, and infallible, and whose traits are “proven” in the special revelations of the Canonical Bible, raises the glaring question:

Why was there three centuries of confusion, fracturing, and compromise among its early most prolific theologians… and even still to this day!?

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For Jews and Christians alike, study of the Scriptures has often been an end to itself — a simple act of devotion — rather than an exercise in absolute truth. These peaceful moderates likely realize today that human interpretation, interpolation, and orthodoxy (individual or group) cannot create an inerrant testimony of the nature of a God, nor of the full nature and teachings of a Jew named Jesus based from ancient oral traditions and differing literature spread over multiple centuries… or from differing regional cultures over 2,000 sq. miles. From an early date, believers then also began to scrutinize the Bible for what it had to say to their own generation and community along with their prolific leaders. Exegesis back then was done for purposes of preaching, pastoral care, formulating codes of behavior, and finding answers to theological and ethical questions not explicitly addressed by the texts.

As it happens today, inevitably back in Antiquity, disagreements arose — over importance of texts, their relative authority to the community, how to account for known inconsistencies and contradictions, and how to explain confusing biblical stories. Like our dear family friend in the kitchen at the beginning, both sides of the debates were probably saying to each other, “Your posture is all merely philosophy and theory.” But orthodoxy nonetheless developed, often based on a pseudo-definite set of human-like rules or patterns regarding multiple meanings and levels of meaning. To imagine there to be just one universal way, one universal lifestyle, one universal truth (e.g. John 14:6), one universal orthodoxy extracted from these millenia of “divine revelations” then and now… is not only an attempt to force a square peg into a round hole, but it is a blatant denial and/or ignorance of historical facts, wide-ranging scholarly critical thinking, reasoning, and probability, and/or a lack of deeper persistent curiosity.
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Or it could be only tunnel-vision “faith.” Right? (wink)

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

Blog-posts for additional information:

Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ
The Suffering Messiah That Wasn’t Jesus
Correcting the Gospels of Jesus
Masada, Texas: How Egos and History Repeat
The “Holy” River

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Correcting the Gospels of Jesus

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What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters with us?Mark 6:2, 3

[Mary] will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’Matthew 1: 21-23

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Like the day we discovered that our childhood belief in Santa Claus and his flying reindeer, or Peter Pan and Tinkerbell were really folklore and not real, archaeology has recently shown that the “Jesus” of the Christian New Testament has been greatly dramatized and intentionally mystified.

One spring afternoon in 1980, in Talpiot, south Jerusalem, construction workers uncovered a tomb dating from the 1st century CE.  Archaeologists from the Israeli Department of Antiquities (IDA) and Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) were called-in to excavate the tomb, including then surveyor Dr. Shimon Gibson, today archaeologist and senior fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research.  Found inside were ten ossuaries or limestone boxes used in 1st century Jewish burial practices to store the bones of deceased family members.  This practice stopped in 70 CE after the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple, Jerusalem, and slaughtered most of the Jewish inhabitants.

During this modern period of the 1980s, many ancient burial sites were being uncovered, and in some cases destroyed due to the widespread expansion and development of Jerusalem.  Exposing such tombs was typically common and uneventful.  However, this particular Talpiot tomb turned out to be quite different.  When archaeologists began examining the ossuaries, they found inscribed on one the phrase “Yeshua bar Joseph” written in Aramaic.  Translated, this means Jesus son of Joseph.

Talpiot Tomb Jerusalem in 1980

The IAA archaeologists would have found nothing extraordinary by this phrase.  Yeshua was a fairly common name in 1st century Jerusalem and Joseph was even more common.  Hence, the phrase does not necessarily mean this particular ossuary belonged to Jesus of Nazareth of the Christian gospels.  A much more thorough examination and investigation of the coffin and family tomb was required.  What other discoveries might make this tomb and Yeshua/Jesus ossuary more than ordinary?

The New Testament gospels tell us that Jesus/Yeshua was the son of Joseph and Maria (also Mary).  What many do not know is that according to earliest Christian traditions, i.e. those decades just after the crucifixion and prior to canonization, Jesus had two sisters:  Salome and Miriam.  The Gospels of Mark and Matthew state that Jesus had four brothers:  Joseph, Judah, Simon, and James.  Jesus’ mother Maria/Mary died, according to early Christian traditions, in Jerusalem.  Of known Jesus family names, six of them were found inscribed on six different ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb.  On another ossuary in the tomb was found the name:  Maria or Mary.  Now these names combined make the family tomb more than ordinary!

Throughout 1st century Israel and Judea, Latin was the spoken and written language of the Roman Empire along with the native languages of Hebrew and Aramaic.  Greek was also used – the region not only was placed in an ideal location of trade in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, but was also conquered several times by several empires of various languages.  On the streets of 1st century Jerusalem one would have heard daily business conducted in any of these four languages.  In the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four canonical gospels and written in Greek, the Virgin Mary or Jesus’ mother, was in only one form:  Maria, a Latinized form of the Hebrew Miriam.  Following the death of Jesus, his teachings were continued by family members including his mother Maria.  As the teachings became more popular, more Roman converts joined the social-welfare movement.  As a result, Mary’s name became Latinized.  Written in Hebrew, the name Maria is extremely rare.  Now the Talpiot tomb becomes even more intriguing.

Yeshua bar Yosef/Jesus son of Joseph ossuary and inscription

If archaeologists had uncovered a family tomb of ossuaries with inscribed names of Yeshua bar Joseph and Maria in the same tomb, what other names might be found on the other eight ossuaries that could tell us who the tomb’s family might be?

On a third ossuary was found the name Matia, a short-form or nickname for Matthew.  At first glance this name wouldn’t quiet fit the genealogy of Jesus or his father Joseph.  Jesus had no known brother named Matia.  However, this only seems out-of-place if scholars strictly follow paternal generations.  Over on the mother Mary’s side in the Gospel of Luke chapter 3, can be found many Matthew’s, or Matia’s, Matthat, Matthathiah, Maath, Mathathias, Matthatha, all representatives of Jewish priestly names.  And not so coincidentally  this correctly follows Jewish traditions of a kingly and priestly Messiah, or Saviour foretold in the Jewish scriptures.  Finding an ossuary with the name Matia in the same family tomb as Maria is not at all unusual.

If an inscribed name of Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, Jonah, Zachariah, or some name that in no way fits the family of Jesus son of Joseph, and Maria, then the fascinating discovery of this Talpiot tomb would be over and there would be nothing shocking to report.  This sort of name on just one of the ossuaries would disqualify it as the tomb of Jesus Christ of the gospels.  However, there are no such names or ossuaries found in the tomb which seem out-of-place.  The Talpiot tomb actually does deserve a more precise and thorough examination.

On a fourth ossuary from the tomb was found inscribed the name Jose, a very rare Hebrew nickname.  As mentioned earlier, Joseph was a very common Jewish name.  Yet, only in the Gospel of Mark, the first and oldest known written gospel of Jesus, is there mentioned a brother by the nickname Jose.  Of all the ossuaries recovered during excavations and constructions sites for the last 25+ years in and around Jerusalem, only one ossuary has ever been found with the inscribed name Jose.  It was found inside the Talpiot tomb and matches the same spelling found in the Gospel of Mark.  Now four pieces of ten in the tomb fit logically together within the Christian gospels and early traditions.  Is that coincidence?

The four names of Yeshua/Jesus bar Joseph, Maria, Matia, and Jose found on ossuaries from 1st century Jerusalem, by themselves or separate are again common names of the period.  But up to this point what are the statistical probabilities of the four names being found in one tomb which also correlate with the Christian gospels and early Christian traditions?  Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, a statistical expert at the University of Toronto’s department of mathematics and statistics addresses this question.

Dr. Andrey Feuerverger of the University of Toronto

Feuerverger has compiled every single name from all ossuaries and other sources in the region from the period of Jesus’ life.  By calculating how often all the names are used Feuerverger can statistically test the names found in the Talpiot tomb.  Dr. Feuerverger emphasizes that examining all the names individually, as if they were found in various locations, then in that way nothing at all strikes you as peculiar.  But the correct way to look at this tomb is to take the names in unison.  Feuerverger explains that according to statistics, if you were to shout out the name Yeshua/Jesus on the streets of 1st century Jerusalem, 4% of the men would respond.  If you were to shout out Maria/Mary, about 25% of the women would answer.  But if you were to shout out the name Jesus, with a father named Joseph and a mother named Mary, and a brother named Jose, the odds of that individual answering are remarkably low.  Dr. Feuerverger explains these statistical probabilities further:

“From a statistical point-of-view, we don’t actually look at the incidences of the individual names, where we say each one of them is a very common name.  We look at the way in which the factors combine with each other; so sure, a father by the name of Joseph is not a rare name.  A son by the name Yeshua is not a rare name.  But when you combine those two together it’s rarer; so it really is a possibility that this particular tomb-site is in fact the one of the New Testament family.  It is a possibility that I think needs to be taken seriously.”

Up to this point we have at least 5 pieces of evidence that combined, logically gives plausible compelling weight that the Talpiot tomb could be the family tomb of Jesus from the Christian gospels.

  1. The tomb is in nearby Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified and buried according to the New Testament.
  2. The tomb follows precisely 1st century Jewish burial practices, which over time include close family members.
  3. The ossuaries inside Talpiot are identified correctly as was Jewish law and practices of the 1st century.
  4. The four names identified so far on 4 of the 10 ossuaries all reasonably fit together according to the Christian gospels and known early Christian traditions.
  5. The statistical probability of the four New Testament names being all found in the same family tomb are very rare according to Dr. Feuerverger.

With these five strong pieces of evidence, anyone in their right mind must be compelled to examine Talpiot to its comprehensive conclusion.  But there are bound to be fundamental denials that this is not, or could not be the bones, ossuary, or tomb of Jesus and his family, and they reach this conclusive denial before all the evidence is examined.  Let’s be responsible and avoid that sort of tunnel-vision.

New Religion or Messianic Reform?

Roman destruction of Jerusalem 70 CE

For several decades now since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other scriptures found from Antiquity, archaeologists, forensic scientists, and both secular and biblical scholars have argued whether Jesus intended to start an entirely new religion separated from and against his Jewish heritage, or if he merely intended to reform it – keeping it rooted in Judaism.  This debate has been very heated because of two primary reasons:  1) In 70 CE the Roman authorities had grown especially annoyed with Jewish uprisings and civil rioting; they destroyed the Temple, Jerusalem, and wiped out those people participating in insurrections…including followers of the Jesus Movement.  And 2) after the few remnants of the movement went underground, their written stories and worship-gatherings about Jesus were also hunted down and destroyed.  This went on for some 200 years until Emperor Constantine legalized the Roman-Greco version of the Jesus Movement to unite his crumbling empire (see Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ for more details).  Therefore, until the late 19th and 20th centuries when many “other” (non-canonical) stories of Jesus and his movement were found, the world had only ONE version, one story of Jesus and his first followers:  Constantine’s Roman-Greco version.

Interestingly we find today in the canonical gospels that Jesus’ followers and disciples were often confused about what Jesus was trying to carry out for his people.  Or were they?  Historical and biblical scholars today agree that the four synoptic gospels in today’s New Testaments are simply testaments attributed to those four disciples, not literal quotes and single-authorship.  In contemporary literature, that method of Roman-Greco writing would be categorized as inspired-from…and certainly for those authors and co-authors scribed through a Roman lens.  Scholars and linguists know today any narratives, historical or contemporary, are from some level subjective.

Unfortunately for anyone living post-70 CE and pre-325 CE and listening to so many conflicting teachings, e.g. James the brother of Jesus versus Saul of Tarsus, or the Apostle Paul of Roman-Jewish heritage, was indeed confused about what Jesus was really trying to do!  Yet, most scholars are in agreement now that there wasn’t necessarily confusion about whether Jesus was a Messianic Reformer or Son of God.  All throughout Roman imperial history, emperors were commonly accepted as divine, straight from the gods, or in this case, the God.  It is a well established Roman-Greco tradition.  But 255 years of confusion and bickering among followers and “teachers” did not end until once again Roman authority exerted itself in the form of Constantine’s Council of Nicaea.

First Council of Nicaea in Bithynia 325 CE

It is quite plausible, perhaps even certain, that the last canonical versions of Jesus’ teachings and life that came down to us presently are heavily influenced Roman versions bearing intently the interests of Rome; e.g. patriarchal hierarchies.  Constantine and his Roman bishops could not benefit from a floundering social-welfare movement if it wasn’t appealing to more Romans.  Tweak it a bit and then give it full imperial backing!  Resoundingly that was the obvious decision.  Ironically or not, one of the largest churches in the world today is located in Vatican City representing Rome’s past sovereignty and glory into the 21st century.

The Remaining Six Ossuaries

Ossuary number five was studied next.  Found inscribed on it were the Greek words Mariamne e Mara.  We already know that Maria is another form of Mary.  Linguistic and epigraphic experts of the period know that Mara means in Aramaic Master, or Great One.  Today, in the Armenian section of Jerusalem a church leader or rabbi is called Mar Jacob or Mar Samuel in the masculine; a sign of respect and title.  Mara is the feminine.  If these two ossuaries, however, are simply labeled as two Mary’s/Maria’s in the same tomb, is that an unusual finding?  Of the some 650 ossuaries uncovered the last 30 years with inscriptions of names, not a single ossuary has the name Mariamne e Mara.

Mariamene e Mara ossuary & inscription from Talpiot tomb

In the canonical gospels of today’s New Testament we read about several Mary’s.  As mentioned earlier, Mary/Maria was a fairly common name in 1st century Jerusalem; about 25% of the women.  What stands out about there being two Mary’s in the same tomb as Yeshua/Jesus bar Joseph is that according to the New Testament gospels, there were two women closely associated with Jesus’ life and teachings.  Their names as we know it in English were the Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.  In the Gospel of Matthew (27:56, 28:1) and the Gospel of Mark (15:47, 16:1), the earliest written gospel, Mary Magdalene, who not only followed Jesus closely, stayed at his side during the crucifixion, and was also the first or one of the first to arrive at Jesus’ burial site.  Considering only the canonical gospels, most scholars agree that these passages indicate the importance of Mary Magdalene to Jesus and his family.  Yet, inferring anymore from this they consider to be speculation and cautiously put little credibility into it.

But what of the some forty-five “other” testimonies about Jesus’ life, death, and teachings – including three relevant to our two Mary’s – that Emperor Constantine’s closest bishops had hunted down and destroyed (or tried to extinguish) as heretical, not worthy of a traditional Roman-Greco son of God and patriarchal church?  In keeping with the principle of responsible fair examination (and not tunnel-vision), let’s consider these “other” testaments.

The Acts of Philip

In 1974, Harvard Divinity School professor François Bovon discovered in a Greek monastery on Mount Athos a 4th century copy of a Gnostic gospel called The Acts of Philip.  To date it is the only complete gospel known to exist from earlier texts.  In this testament it describes the actions of three Jesus-followers:  Philip, Bartholomew, and a female leader named Mariamne, commissioned by Jesus to spread his teachings.  The Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is a bold, spiritually gifted leader given the title of Apostle, on level with Peter (i.e. their first Roman Catholic Pope), Philip, Bartholomew, and all the others.  Mariamne is said to be the sister of the apostle Philip and she teaches, baptizes, and heals with the same authority as the other apostles.

Translating the Greek Mariamne into Hebrew it becomes Mariam, and into Latin it is Maria, or Mary in English.  Dr. Bovon supports this line of translation based on the 3rd century writings of Origen, who consistently used Mariamne to mean Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene and Jesus

The Pistis Sophia

In the Pistis Sophia, a Gnostic manuscript written as early as the late 2nd century, also spells in Greek the name of Mary Magdalene as Mariamne.  It too gives high regard to female apostles having equal authority and status as the male apostles.

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

There is some controversy over whether the Gospel of Mary refers to Mary Magdalene, but most historical and biblical scholars agree that given the growing library of 2nd and 3rd century Gnostic and Coptic (Asiatic-Egyptian) testaments of earliest Christianity, it is indeed Mary Magdalene of the 1st century town Magdala on the Sea of Galilee near Jerusalem.  In this gospel it spells in Greek the name of Mary Magdalene as Mariamne.  And it gives her very high regard as a leading apostle, similar to the previous two gospels mentioned.

Attempting to remain true to our principle of responsible fairness, finding somewhere within the known first, second, or third century Roman Empire another ossuary with the name Mariamne e Mara  spelled in Greek, would certainly cast serious doubts on the Talpiot tomb being that of Jesus and his close family.  But as of the date of this blog/article no such ossuary has been found.  Perhaps not all “illegal or heretical” writings, teachings, and evidence of a real Jesus were put to the torch, but slipped through the jaws of Roman sovereignty?

The Remaining Ossuaries Continued

The sixth ossuary or what should have been the sixth was missing according to Dr. Shimon Gibson’s 1980 survey-blueprint.  Why would this particular ossuary and not any of the others be missing?  Did it have some sort of significance?  Did it have some sort of value?  Pursuing this line of questioning we can come up with at least two reasonable answers.

The Black Market or Underground (illegal) markets are very lucrative markets.  Consider the legal or illegal drug market in the United States.  Pharmaceutical companies spend extraordinary amounts of money to manufacture, market, and sell their prescription drugs.  The illegal narcotic market in America is estimated to generate some $60 – $70 billion dollars in business for the cartels.  Valuable irreplaceable archaeological artifacts can fetch thousands to millions in the Antiquities Black Market.  This is easily an incentive for a construction-worker, truck driver, thief, or whomever of ill-repute to steal a 1st century ossuary.

James ossuary and “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” inscription

Another possible suspect would be a well-informed high-ranking Israeli government official.  You might ask why they would have any incentive to make disappear a specific 2,000 year old ossuary.  In a January 2008 article by Time magazine said this:

“The widow of Joseph Gat, the chief archaeologist of the 1980 excavation electrified the conference by saying: “My husband believed that this was Jesus’s tomb, but because of his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, he was worried about a backlash of anti-Semitism and he didn’t think he could say this.”

Fear.  Fear of the reaction of others, even nations, in positions of power and the length they might go throughout history had often put truth…put real life…into a locked closet or forced it underground; exactly what happened to Gnostic (or anything in disagreement to Constantinian-Roman Catholic laws) beliefs and worship in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century Roman Empire.

Since the creation of the Israeli nation in 1947-48, Israel has depended heavily on U.S. political, economic, and military support for its existence in a highly hostile region.  The U.S. is a predominantly Christian nation.  The Talpiot tomb has already provided significant evidence that the tomb is that of the Jesus family.  You may ask, How does that relate to one ossuary disappearing?  Well, it could have serious implications if the one ossuary turns out to be the final proof that the Talpiot tomb is of Jesus and his family, then it disproves the theological belief that Jesus’ full body ascended up to heaven, and it could dismantle other traditional Christian theological and biblical beliefs.  Hence, a conscientious Israeli government, sensitive to maintaining the highest trust and relationship with its big brother has good reason to “assist” in the big brother’s…integrity and image to the world, especially to their mutual enemies.  Therefore, if this one ossuary on some level damages that relationship, certainly the little brother will pause and rethink what he is about to make public.

Further Talpiot Challenges to Church Traditions

As I conveyed in my blog/article Constantine:  Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ, and has been eluded to here, after the death of Jesus there existed in mid 1st century Jerusalem Judeo-Christians and Early Neo-Christians.  The former were those who firmly held to Jewish laws and customs and the teachings of James the brother of Jesus.  And the Early Neo-Christians were those who had no heritage to Judaism; i.e. converted Gentiles who wanted ALL the physical and spiritual benefits of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and salvation as taught by the Apostle Peter and Jewish-Roman Apostle Paul.

Peter and Paul – fathers of Roman Catholicism

Over many recent decades historical and biblical scholars have debated over the true significance of Jesus’ brother James (see Robert H. Eisenman‘s work) and Mary Magdalene (see Karen L. King‘s work) for one major reason.  They draw into serious question WHO really had any single authoritative blessing of Jesus.  Was it James, the life-long brother of Jesus, perhaps biological brother?  Or was it Mary Magdalene, the closest and “most loved” of Jesus?  Or was it Peter, the rock, of whom the Roman Catholic Church built its eminent kingdom on earth.  Or would it be Paul from Tarsus, seen by some Jesus followers as too Roman and too Hellenistic, not of rabbinical Judaism?  We haven’t been able to decipher the ancient evidence or draw reasonable conclusions until recent decades.  The other lost testaments, “other” points-of-view like James, Mary Magdalene, Philip, or the Gnostics were all hunted down and destroyed between 70 CE and say 400 CE (or so the Roman church had hoped) by guess who:  Roman armies, Constantine, and his closest bishops.  These men eventually became Christianity’s Early Church Fathers and coincidentally, these Church Fathers were also the ones who decided which of all the 45 plus known testaments of Jesus and his apostles would make-up our modern New Testament.  This strongly suggests that our modern New Testament is severely amputated.

Controversy over the James Ossuary

As it was from 1980 to 2005-06, the IAA and IDA chose not to pursue further examination of the Talpiot ossuaries or the whereabouts of the missing ossuary.  When asked why, the usual response was general, vague and apathetic.  It seemed the IAA and IDA was pleased that possibly the most astonishing discovery of Christendom went quietly on warehouse shelves.

When Simcha Jacobovici, Charles Pellegrino, James Tabor, and film producer James Cameron found out about the tomb’s discovery, unlike the Jewish authorities, they felt compelled to responsibly look at the tomb and ossuaries extensively.  They all agreed, if only just the first four or five ossuaries had been found together in one tomb, statistically it deserves responsible archaeological and scientific investigation.  The fact that one ossuary was now missing should also draw more persistent attention.

The hunt for the missing ossuary began.  Locating the missing Talpiot ossuary, however, could prove almost impossible given the number of known ossuaries both in museums and in private collections – like a needle in a haystack.  There are hundreds and hundreds of ossuaries with names on them common to the time period and as mentioned before, to Jesus family names.  Yet, before the makers and contributors of the investigative documentary could go far in their search, in October 2002 an ossuary – unlike the hundreds of others – surfaced in the Antiquities market with a name inscribed on it that would logically belong to the Jesus family.  On it written in Aramaic was Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua, or “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”.  Once again, the Talpiot tomb cannot be ignored!

How possible is it that the inscription and ossuary are a forgery?  Furthermore, what are the possibilities that this particular ossuary even came from the Talpiot tomb?  These two questions fuel the controversy.

There are two well-established accepted methods used by modern scientists and archaeologists to decide whether an ancient relic is a fake and what time-period it comes from:  epigraphy and long-wave ultra-violet patina tests.

Dr. André Lemaire, researcher and respected epigraphic specialist of the Sorbonne in Paris, France, states the percentage this inscription is a modern forgery is practically a 0.1% chance.  He goes on to say that all the words and letters are accurate representations of the Second Temple period, i.e. decades prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and that “it seems very probable that this is the ossuary of James in the New Testament.”  Lemaire and the Canadian Royal Ontario Museum commented that according to established scientific methodologies of epigraphy and dating “nothing suspicious” about the ossuary or its inscriptions exists.

The other established method of determining fake relics and their time-period is long-wave ultra-violet patina tests.  Patina is a layer of particles or tarnish formed on the surface of metal or stone surfaces (called cortification) over long periods of time.  Under an electron-microscope the layer/tarnish reveals the oxidation process of molecules from the relic’s specific environment which also helps in elapsed time similar to carbon-dating methods.  This and the epigraphic study are reliable methods of determining the ossuary’s authenticity.

Patina tests can decide the likelihood of where the ossuary was found and/or located prior to discovery; in other words, for our purposes here it will find a mineral fingerprint of whether the ossuary was originally inside the Talpiot tomb or whether it was buried somewhere else in Israel, or if it was buried at all.

Patina layers on various stones

Charles Pellegrino, a forensic archaeologist, sent the patina samples to the Suffolk Crime Lab in New York State for analysis.  The patina off the James ossuary had trace minerals such as titanium and iron that are unique to it.  In addition to samples from the Talpiot tomb, many other random samples of patina were gathered from all over Jerusalem and surrounding excavations to further identify samples from other tombs and see if the Talpiot tomb had distinguishing elemental traces.  After the Suffolk Crime Lab finished its complete analysis of all samples, ossuaries from the Talpiot tomb were the only ossuaries to have contained exact traces and levels of titanium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium which matched the same elements off the James ossuary samples.  The electro-microscopic materials match in almost every elemental class with a margin-of-error of less than ten percent.

With the conclusion of the Suffolk Crime Lab’s electro-micrometer analysis, it is compelling evidence that the James ossuary is the missing ossuary of the Talpiot tomb.  With this probability, Dr. Andrey Feuerverger modifies his previous statistical calculations this way:

“If it has been possible to determine that the James ossuary is the missing ossuary, then this would have a very strong additional degree of evidentiary value.  I would say that would be an absolute slam-dunk, if that were shown to be the case, that we have found the tomb of Jesus and his family.”  [the statistical probabilities are shown in the two graphics bottom right]

Naturally Feuerverger’s statistical model has come under fire by opposing scholars and statisticians.  The most common counter-argument to his model is that the names apparently found in the Talpiot tomb were all very common names during the time.  However, as Feuerverger stated, it is the four or five names found in unison, all found in one tomb that makes it exceptional in contrast to other tombs.  Simply considering each ossuary name independently would indeed make the finds much more meaningless.  But the fact remains that at least four names were found in the same family tomb.  It is this grouping which makes the Talpiot tomb so extraordinary.  If in further scientific examination it is found that five or six names do match known family groupings from both canonical and accepted non-canonical sources, and they are found to come from this specific tomb, then it must be seriously considered that the Talpiot tomb is undoubtedly that of Jesus of Nazareth and his close family.

For a broader reading on this debate, see the March 2007 article in Scientific American magazine “Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus’ Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?” and the October 2002 New York Times article “’Jesus’ Inscription on Stone May Be Earliest Ever Found.

GIS Mapping

During the last two and a half decades several tombs in this area of south Jerusalem have been uncovered. During the Second Temple period (530 BCE to 70 CE) members of the same movements or ideologies often knew each other and so were often buried in the same areas. In a nearby tomb just about 60 meters from the Talpiot tomb are found several undisturbed ossuaries with elaborate drawings on their sides biblical scholars and archaeologists feel are representative of known Judeo-Christian groups of the 1st century. Dr. Natalie Mesika, a geographic information systems (GIS) mapper brought in to analyze and map the area, concludes that the Talpiot tomb and nearby tombs have a spatial relationship with each other. “In this area there are” she explains “tombs that differ from normative tombs. The members of ideological groups often knew one another. They were less ‘mainstream’ and so they were buried together in specific areas. There was a large Essene cemetary on this expanse in the area of the Armon Hanatziv ridge [the Talpiot tomb area]. This may have been where groups that were not connected to the mainstream, such as groups of early Christians, were buried.” What this means is that much more can be gleaned from the group-movement by extensive research and examination of the area’s ossuaries which may lead to more intriguing challenges and enlightenment of earliest Christianity.

Tabor and Jacobovici meanwhile have inferred that so far the findings in both tombs can open a theological can-of-worms for both Christianity and Judaism and those modern impressions of their earliest roots. If the evidence is found to further support a resurrection-concept as the inscribed symbols seem to imply, then it also implies that these Judeo-Christians “did believe in Jesus’ ability to rise from the dead, but — and this is a significant but — he had not yet done so. If this is really the case, then it is a major deviation from contemporary Christian beliefs.” See the May 2012 issue of ERETZ Magazine of Israel article Who’s Afraid of the Tomb of Jesus?

Judah son of Jesus Ossuary

In Aramaic it reads Yehudah bar Yeshua, meaning Judah son of Jesus.  This inscription on a seventh ossuary found in the Talpiot tomb probably causes the biggest firestorm of debate.  And it is with good reason.

The Rise and Birth of the Final Holy Church – At Least until the Protestant Reformation

Since the 4th and 5th centuries CE, the earliest Roman-Greco Christian traditions portray Jesus of Nazareth as a divine Son of God.  Following all historical imperial traditions of authority in Antiquity and after, there could be only ONE king; a king straight from the ONE God or Gods if your empire was polytheistic.  The supreme ruler was divine and anything opposed to that law was treason, heretical, and punishable by death.  This is a well-known fact about Roman rule and sovereignty.  The bloodline of these divine rulers had to be the purest of pure.  Otherwise, civil revolts and ambitious challengers to the throne would disintegrate the kingdom.  There could be no doubts of purity whatsoever.

We also know that Roman patience was extremely short with volatile belligerent groups.  One such group was the Jews with their constant fervor of a new king, called Messiah, which would rescue and revive the true Kingdom of God’s People from the tyranny of Rome.  By 70 CE and later, Rome was utterly fed-up with these Jews and their nagging revolts.  It was time to annihilate everything about these people, most of all their theological doctrines as taught by the Judeo-Christian leaders.  Yet after some 200 years, the social-welfare-Christ-movement kept popping up in various provinces where inequality, poverty, and civil abuses by Rome’s elite were high.  By the year 315 CE, the Caesars would have to ask again and again, how can we defeat these people?

Some four centuries of Roman oppression and social tyranny upon its vanquished finally brought the mighty empire to its knees.  Unknowingly, her rulers accomplished the exact opposite of what they egocentrically dreamed of:  an empire of superior people (Romans) ruling over inferior people (non-Romans) for a thousand centuries.  Enter one of the greatest social-welfare movements of history, which no longer requires you to convert to Judaism!  It is open to all (see Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ), even the lower social-classes and outcasts.

Judah son of Jesus?

In a world long governed by one king, one ruler, one emperor, how would it be socially possible to have multiple, even hundreds of leaders, many of them women!  Roman-Greco thinking could never fathom this type of social order.  Therefore, what Constantine and his archbishops decided was to merge the social-welfare movement into a Roman sanctioned social order, or universal church.  They called it the Roman Catholic Church and it would represent, as closely as was possible, a mixture of the grass-roots Christ-movement tenets, bits of ancient Jewish prophetic traditions of the Messiah-Christ adding mystery and miracle, but also firmly inline with Roman rule and traditions.  Those opposing this commencement would be branded heretics and punished by law.  Thus began the destruction of Gnostic testaments.  This included Judeo-Christian testaments portraying Jesus of Nazareth, his family, and his apostles in such a way as to appear normal or realistic, or furthermore in a way not sanctioned by Constantine’s bishops.

Two thousand years later, when an ossuary turns up with the inscription Judah son of Jesus, obviously it will fly in the face of fundamental Christendom, and hence must be discredited at all costs reminiscent of 1st century Rome and the medieval church.

Removing the Horse-Blinders

In light of known Roman punishment to insurrection, naturally the son of a rival-king would be in grave danger.  Anyone connected with the Jesus-movement was open to Roman prosecution.  Perceived treason was never tolerated by those in power.  John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, beheaded.  James the brother of Jesus stoned to death.  Simon brother of Jesus crucified.  And most certainly, the son of Jesus the Messiah would be in horrible danger.

There is expert biblical speculation that the “beloved disciple” mentioned in the Gospel of John, might be Judah son of Jesus to hide his bloodline.  In John 19:26-27, minutes before Jesus took his final breath while hanging on the cross, according to the passage it reads When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’  Anyone well-versed in the four original synoptic gospels – not later renditions – knows that identifying specific relatives, disciples, and women associated with Jesus is a rabbit-trail at best.  Arguably, the confusion was intended.

Protecting the son of the 1st century crucified Messiah-Christ, or protecting the later 4th century Roman-Greco Christian tenets of pure divinity or a clever mixture of both to give the impression of miraculous truth… finding Judah the biological son of Jesus of Nazareth, James the biological brother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene the wife of Jesus, Mary the biological mother of Jesus, Jose biological brother of Jesus, and finally the Jesus of Nazareth all in the same tomb would most certainly call from fundamental radical followers their most unforgiving opposition.  Two thousand years of doctrine and tradition just cannot change or be challenged, right?  Do not ask that same question of the Roman Catholic Church (or modern Protestant churches) in regard to Nicolaus Copernicusheliocentric model of the heavenly bodies!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the IAA forced the documentary scientists, archaeologists, and researchers to stop and seal the Talpiot tomb before any further examinations could be concluded.

Professor James Charlesworth, respected scholar of New Testament Language & Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, helped put together in Jerusalem in January 2008 a panel of 31 international scholars to reopen the case of the Talpiot tomb and its ossuaries.  The results of the symposium are now published and available to the public (click on the book cover above to purchase).  These 31 expert essays vindicate the 2006 examination of the ossuaries and tomb and the 2007 documentary by Cameron and Jacobovici, and conclude that to a very high degree the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his close family has indeed been located.  Furthermore, the probabilities of the specific names found inside the tomb and grouped together casts many basic Christian gospel foundations as folklore or personal faith, but not systemic fact.  It turns everything upside down.

Santa Claus, Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell Revisited

Why does a person hold on to faith-based beliefs so staunchly?  There are some understandable answers.  Some would say because present comfort and security are vital to life and survival.  Some would answer because evil exists, and there are evil-doers in the world and nether-world who are determined to harm and destroy you; thus a form of miraculous protection is needed.  Some might simply answer it was my parents way of life, they taught me the same, and it worked for them, it works for me.  Others would claim another theological reason, that mankind is in a state of total depravity and has only one form of hope or escape from eternal damnation.  Still others might claim that the “key” to mortal happiness, redemption and eternal bliss have been firmly and convincingly offered for the taking for over 2,000 years; we only need to accept it.  Are these answers much differently than when we found that our childhood hero(es) was/were mythical?  And so what was the purpose of those grand stories anyway?

The grand stories offer dramatic hope in a world and life that is often difficult, even brutal.  Perhaps most of all they offer a soothing antidote to the reality of death and beyond.  The good-feeling hope or faith-stories are most popular among the impoverished and struggling lower and middle-classes of society, just like it was in the conquered provinces of Rome’s oppressive rule before, during and after Jesus’ life.  And just like our uplifting childhood stories of Santa Clause, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and the like, from a purely altruistic and humanitarian perspective, they are good for a person’s, a society’s, and a civilization’s composite mental and emotional health, whether they are based wholly or in part, in fiction or fact.  For those who mentally or emotionally are struggling most severely, the stories bring great relief!

If this article has upset or struck an emotional nerve, then I respectfully ask you to please read my earlier five blogs/articles:  Canaanites Killed & Removed From Native Lands, The Suffering Messiah That Wasn’t Jesus, Hyper-Social Anxiety Over Sex, Collaborative Ineptitude, and Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ.  These articles collectively give a balanced picture of why divisive hyper-polarized systems and institutions (but not charitable or philanthropic) eventually disintegrate a society’s cohesion and progress, e.g. America’s gross socio-economic and educational inequality today.

Personally, I do not want to remove anyone’s individual dreams and hopes.  Who wants to give up that sort of feeling?  Good feelings indeed do our mind, body, and soul good!  Instead, my intention is to bring into serious question the validity (or invalidity) of staunch, discriminatory  oppressive, systematic institutional abuses of societal control or misinformation.  History has shown time and time again, that accepted or forced fear-based myths and folklore on people are most successful when the powerless, uneducated, gullible, or illiterate are exploited.  If anything, I hope this article spurs more determined responsible biblical archaeology that presents the unbiased comprehensive evidence, and NOT foregone conclusions supported by selected evidence.

Therefore, I write this and other blogs on the subject.  Reject radical fundamentalism in whatever religious divisive form it takes is my mantra.  Let us simply put folklore on the shelf of “Folklore”, healthy self-help stories on the shelf of “Self-help”, and scientific archaeology on the shelf of “Scientific Archaeology” and allow an individual the freedom AND dignity to choose wisely what suits them best.

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Footnote:  This blog/article was inspired by the 2007 documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus by Simcha Jacobovici and produced by James Cameron and other sources.

April 2015 Update — “Geologists Claim Stats, Science Prove Jesus Buried In Jerusalem with Wife and Supposed Son,” Ariel Cohen, The Jerusalem Post.

JesusFamilyTomb.com

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