The Missing Christ

06/12/2013

So often I hear my Christian friends complain about the fact that their minister’s sermons rarely touch on the teachings of Christ.  After all, if one doesn’t understand the teachings of Christ, how can they ever be expected to be a good Christian?  There’s a reason why Christianity downplays the teachings of Christ and that reason goes all the way back to the origins of Christianity itself.

Historical backdrop

As we now know from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament story is to a great extent a story about the Nazarean Movement.  In that vein, Jesus was often called Jesus of Nazareth. The movement founded The Jerusalem Church and the head of the Church was James, the brother of Jesus.  The Nazarenes were a small group of Jews who followed the Torah (the Mosaic Law). They also believed in the Old Testament prophecy of a messiah (king) who would lead them to victory over their oppressors (the Romans).  So the New Testament backdrop was more a story of politics and revolution rather than one of religion. With the burning of Jerusalem and destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish revolt against Rome was broken and those Nazarenes that survived scattered throughout the Diaspora.

The origins of Christianity

The objective of the Nazarene Movement was to restore the Davidic line to its rightful place – on the throne of Israel.  In order to accomplish that goal it was necessary to displace the Roman Empire and to do that they would need lots of help, particularly from the Gentiles.  What better way than to develop a new religion, a new form of Judaism, one that would appeal to Gentiles as well.  For them the rightful heir to the throne, who had descended from King David, was Jesus.  With respect to Jesus, the Nazarenes believed that he was not divine; that he lived his life in accordance with the Torah; and that he was the messiah according to Jewish prophecy which they defined as the coming of the Prophet and the Messiahs (plural) of Aaron and Israel.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, historians saw the makings of what would eventually morph into Christianity.  The rites of the Nazarenes included tithing, baptism, a sacred common meal and a Last Judgment where God would save the righteous.  The Jerusalem Church sent emissaries/apostles out into the world to establish a major footprint through the founding of churches.  Their vision was an apocalyptic one and the Nazarenes in Antioch (in what is now modern-day Turkey) would eventually add one very important element to their theology – the premise that man was saved from sin through the death of Jesus. In so doing, they invented a religion that would suit the pagans of the Roman world and in the process changed Jesus from a Jewish messiah into a universal savior for all men. It was from that point that the Nazarenes would be referred to as Christians.

Jesus in the Bible

Many consider Jesus to be the greatest man/god who ever lived.  So why was there so very little written about him?  In fact, much of what was written about him was intentionally excluded from the Bible.  Those scriptures that were not included in the Bible were an important part of Christian thought and philosophy for three hundred years after Jesus.   Then, overnight, they were considered to be heresies (by the Church) and the writings were destroyed.   Three hundred years; that’s longer than the current life of the American Republic!  It’s like saying that the Constitution, which was carefully crafted by the Founding Fathers, would suddenly be considered un-American and that anyone who still subscribed to it would be thrown into a FEMA camp.  Except back in those days, they just simply killed them.

Politics and religion

What the Roman Empire needed in those days was a cause that could serve as a reason for the people to support the Empire, for it’s much easier to control a far-flung empire with a religion than it is with an army.  The Empire didn’t need a god (Jesus) because they already had one (The Emperor), since all of the Roman Emperors declared themselves to be God.  Then along came Christianity which had a savior but no Christ.  By that, I mean that Christ, himself, was essentially missing from his own religion.  The Roman Emperor Constantine couldn’t resist adopting a non-threatening Christianity as a political tool to help save a crumbling empire. As for the Bible, the Holy Roman Church would include very little about the life and times of Jesus and even less about his teachings.  All they really ever needed was a savior to mollify the masses.

Epilogue

It’s kind of ironic that Christianity started out as a political weapon in an effort to displace the Roman Empire and turned out being a religious weapon in an attempt to help save it. Two thousand years later, Christians all over the world are still practicing Hellenized Christianity as opposed to the true teachings of Jesus, whether they know it or not.

One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history – it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn about church history.”

– Brian McLaren, leading Christian pastor and theologian

 

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5 Responses to “The Missing Christ”

  1. My research into christian history has brought me to much the same conclusion, although I am not certain about the Nazarenes recruiting gentiles to overthrow the Romans. I see Paul as someone recruiting gentiles and many times at odds with the disciples who traveled with Jesus. I haven’t quite worked out what I think the relationship was between Paul and the apostles. I am still researching that part. But I do think Jesus was an Essene and a spiritual teacher within the Nazarene branch.

    Your last few posts have given me alot of thought to ponder. Keep them coming! I hope to find the time to visit your archives and read more of your posts.

    • chicagoja said

      Thanks for your comments. There was apparently a lot of friction even within the Nazarene community with some people for peace and some for war; some believed that the Torah should be strictly followed and some, like Jesus, who were more liberal and were willing to include Gentiles. For example, Jesus and his brother James appear to have been in opposite camps within the Nazarene community perhaps due in part to sibling rivalry. Jesus was not considered to be the David (heir to the throne) by everyone due to his birth not meeting the strict requirements of their sect. Much of the history of this time period has been repressed and the Gospels are highly edited versions of the originals (which the Vatican has in safekeeping) and therefore the truth remains beyond reach for now.

  2. Arkenaten said

    Very interesting perspective. Thoroughly enjoyed the read.

    • chicagoja said

      Thanks for your comments. I have a follow-up post entitled “One Too Many Jerusalems” coming soon.

      • Arkenaten said

        Look forward to it…I am following you on my reader and am busy ‘digging’ through your posts. Can’t promise to read them all, but I’ll do my best. 😉

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