So, Christians believe that they are living in sin. Naturally, since, it’s part of Christian theology, which is supposedly based on the story of Adam and Eve. Too bad that the Bible is in disagreement.

According to the Bible, no less than Jesus and God made statements that they disagreed with the concept of Original Sin (see John 9:2-3 and Genesis 8:21, respectively). Of course, the whole issue is probably moot anyway because Judaism doesn’t believe in Original Sin and they wrote the Old Testament – it’s their bible. Enough said.

Heaven and hell is another misconstrued part of Christian theology. It’s somewhat true, although woefully incomplete. At the risk of oversimplifying, heaven is our natural state of existence (where we originally came from if you will) and hell…well hell is right here on Earth. The story of the Fall is loosely based on how man stepped down from a higher plane of existence into this material world.

Keep in mind, the “natural state” of existence is non-physical. That is, life is energy and energy is life and, of course, energy is non-physical. As Einstein put it, energy can neither be created or destroyed. However, it can change form. Thus, if you reduce the vibration rate of energy it will condense, eventually into matter. That’s how man went from Heaven to Hell.

So, if there was no Original Sin and we are already in Hell, why did Jesus come? The better question, however, is this, “If Jesus didn’t preach the concept of Original Sin, why does the Church believe in it?” The answer to that question is that it has to do with the basis of all religions. I call it the selling of salvation. In effect, religion is a barter. You put money into the church coffers and in return you are given the so-called keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The bottom line is essentially this: If there is no Original Sin, there is no need for salvation and, therefore, no need for a messiah.

All religions are based on a common source of abstract beliefs in the Divine.  Jesus, like other prophets before and after him, taught these “truths” under a veil of allegory and symbolism (and parables in Jesus’ case). The disciples believed that Jesus was the messiah who was prophesied by Old Testament prophets who were expecting a real flesh-and-blood messiah (like King David) who would deliver them from their enemies and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel. Of course, it never happened.

Some two thousand years later, we’re still waiting for the Old Testament prophecies to come true. According to prophecy, all we need is a messiah named Immanuel; for the entire world to accept the Jewish god; and for all the Jews to return to their homeland. That last one is a bit problematic as the Jewish homeland, according to the Bible, is Judea and Samaria while the present day state of Israel for the most part does not encompass those territories.

If you believe in the Old Testament prophecies, it looks increasingly unlikely that a messiah will ever return. If one could ask twentieth century Christian theologian Albert Schweitzer, he’d no doubt say that Jesus should have returned in the lifetime of the disciples (if he was the messiah). At least, that was what he said in his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus. 

…and that was not just his opinion, but rather what the Bible, itself, said.

 

 

“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 church history.” – Christian theologian Brian McLaren

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Arab Israel

07/24/2017

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Arab Israel. Isn’t Israel suppose to be the homeland of the Jews? What’s wrong with this picture?

The other day, terrorists at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem attacked and killed two Israeli policemen. What is not widely reported, though, is that the two Israeli policemen were actually Arabs, members of the Druze minority sect. Yes, Arab Israeli policemen.

People who have not visited Israel recently would never suspect that Israel has become such a boiling pot of diversity.  It’s one of the few  places in the world where diversity actually has had some success. Two of the largest groups of Israel citizens, about 20% of the population each, are Arabs and people of Russian ancestry. Those of Russian ancestry are generally not religious which means that nearly 40% of Israelis do not practice the Jewish faith (Judaism). In addition, there is a large group of secular (non-religious) Jews as well as atheists, Christians and a plethora of minor faiths such as Bahai. It’s fairly safe to say then that a majority of Israeli citizens do not practice the Jewish faith.

As for Israel being a Jewish homeland, that’s true but incomplete.  It is a homeland for Jews, but it isn’t the “homeland” of the Jews. The homeland of the Jewish people is actually the ancient kingdoms of Judea and Samaria which lie next door (immediately east of what is now Israel). Israel was formed by the United Nations out of a swamp-infested tract of land that ran along the Mediterranean plus the Negev Desert. It wasn’t much to write home about and it certainly wasn’t the historical Jewish homeland.

That true homeland of Judea and Samaria for the most part encompasses what is referred to as the West Bank (the lands lying immediately west of the Jordan River). For example, Bethlehem, Masada, Jericho, Qumran and Jerusalem were part of ancient Judea and Samaria. Of course, the West Bank was ceded by Jordan to Israel as the result of Jordan losing the Six-Day War in 1967 and have effectively been part of Israel ever since, a period of 50 years.  Does anyone really think that Israel will give up their homeland after having these lands for the last 50 years?

As for the Arabs who live in Israel and are citizens of Israel, with all the rights of Israeli citizens, they enjoy a better life than in any Arab nation in the Middle East.  Second place isn’t even close.  Arab women, especially, have freedom in Israel that is unparalleled throughout the Middle East. I recently met an Arab waiter in Israel who was moonlighting from his day job as a school teacher to pay for his daughter to go to medical school. Education for an Arab woman! Are you kidding, and a doctor to boot.

Arab Israel isn’t what you think it is nor as it has been portrayed by the media. Some Arabs are Israeli policemen who sometimes die for their “country.” They are represented in the Israeli Knesset (Congress/Parliament) and an Arab sits on the Israeli Supreme Court. Maybe, the world should take notice of the Arab Israeli dynamic.  They just might learn something from it.

Palestine Fake News

01/06/2017

So, Palestine is back in the news again. One really has to ask the question why. That is, why do the Palestinians deserve a homeland?

In recent days, the UN Security Council passed a resolution whereby Israeli settlements in the West Bank were deemed to be illegal (i.e. occupied territories). I say “deemed to be” because the UN Security Council has no legal power to tell any sovereign nation what to do. If we’re going to play the “occupied territories” card, it would only be fair to first demand that China give Tibet its freedom back or that America return the country to the Native Americans. By definition, then, the West Bank, Tibet and America are all occupied territories. The West Bank arguably falls into this category because it was won as the result of a war… and the treaty that ended that war said that the West Bank now belonged to Israel. So, that should be the end of it, right?

Aside: The fake news is that an actual, sovereign nation of Palestine has never existed; not even in biblical times. Some scholars say that a Palestinian identity did not even become a reality until after 1948, with some saying as late as 1967. Ethnically, Palestinians are actually no different from other Arabs living throughout the Middle East.

However to understand the politics of the present, one has to know a little something about the politics of the past. At the conclusion of World War I, the former Ottoman Empire was carved up and a part of it was given the name Palestine. Arabs, Christians and Jews lived in Palestine at that time and they were all considered to be Palestinians. Palestine was governed by the British under what was called the British Mandate of Palestine. Part of Palestine would later be spun off and become the Arab state of Transjordan. In 1948, Transjordan (now called Jordan) and other Arab states invaded the remainder of Palestine (then called Mandatory Palestine). The trigger for the war was Israel’s declaration of independence. The resulting treaty that ended the war gave the West Bank to Transjordan with the remainder of Mandatory Palestine recognized as the Jewish state of Israel.

Those borders remained in place until the Six – Day War of 1967. That war was initiated by various Arab nations, including Jordan, who still did not recognize the creation of the state of Israel. At the conclusion of that war, Jordan ceded the West Bank to Israel. It’s interesting to note that The United Nations did not call for a homeland for the Palestinian Arabs at that time.

However today, some fifty years later, politicians have reinvented the issue of a separate Palestinian state. Never mind that the biggest minority population in the Middle East, the Kurds, still do not have a homeland of their own; never mind that an Arab nation (Jordan) was previously carved out of Palestine and could be used to provide for a Palestinian state; and never mind that the West Bank is, more or less, the biblical Jewish lands of Judea and Sumeria, the loss of which was the reason for a Jewish homeland in the first place.

Finally, and most importantly, never mind that the Palestinian Arabs still do not recognize Israel as a sovereign state as evidenced by their rejection of John Kerry’s recent two-state solution. In those circumstances, why would anyone want to create a Palestinian state which would be next door to a nation (Israel) that they, the Palestinians, do not recognize, a nation that they would like to wipe off the map? After all, that’s how we got the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967. So, you have to ask yourself if the real reason the politicians want to create a Palestinian homeland is to create a lasting peace or to start a war. Last I checked, no one makes money off of peace, only off of wars. Fake peace anyone?

 

“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”  –  King Hussein of Jordan

 

This post certainly isn’t Shakespeare.  However, it is about a tragedy, a modern-day version.  That is, politics rarely results in anything productive. Today, with all the backroom deals and secret handshakes, the world is upside down. As Shakespeare put it, there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.  That said, a little background is probably in order.

 

Historical background

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved up by the victors (the Western Powers). They took a magic marker to the map of the Middle East and completely redrew all the boundaries. As a result, countries like Syria and Iraq were created out of thin air.

Further, the British were given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer certain occupied territories in the Middle East which would be used, for among other things, to create a Jewish homeland. That mandate is referred to as the Palestine Mandate, with Palestine referring to what is now the combined areas of Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The original term of Palestinian referred to anyone then living within the boundaries of this new territory of Palestine, including Christians and Jews.

Fast forward to 1967, at which time various Arab countries attacked Israel in what would become known as the Six-Day War. Those Arab countries, which included Jordan, were on the losing side of that war and as a result Jordan ceded to Israel those lands west of the Jordan River (the West Bank). To the victors go the spoils, or so they say. Ever since, there has been an international dialogue to have Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians to create a new and separate Arab state.

 

Making a bad situation worse

Today, the world is stuck with the political deals that the Western Powers made with each other at the end of World War I. Unfortunately, there is no way to unwind what has already been done and moving forward with a reasonable solution has proved to be elusive. So, as world leaders answer the clarion call, it would be good to remember a few salient points:

  • There has been a lot of discussion of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, as if there ever was such a country. However, there has never been a country of Palestine – not in modern times and not even in ancient times. So, creating an Arab state for the Palestinians would not be a case of returning the West Bank to them, but rather it would be creating a Palestinian state for the very first time in history.
  • The Palestinians are not the only group in the world without a homeland. There are significant minority populations in any number of countries who have never had their own homeland. For example, the largest minority population in the world is actually the Kurds (who also live in the Middle East). However, there has never been any talk of giving them a homeland.
  • If Israel is forced to give up the West Bank, it could set a dangerous precedent.  If that were to happen, who might be next? Is it possible that America might be asked to return the Southwestern United States (stretching all the way from California to Texas) back to Mexico, since it was acquired as a result of the U.S./Mexican War.

Unfortunately, a precedent such as this would likely have an unexpected ripple effect. So, is there a reason why the world is hell-bent to make a bad situation worse?

 

The run-up to WWWIII

Although the status quo is far more palatable to me than the solutions offered up so far, I do have a proposal that might end the stalemate. Actually, it wasn’t very difficult to come up with it either. That is, simply have Israel give the West Bank back to Jordan. Yes, the very same Jordan that the West Bank used to be a part of. Jordan is a pretty stable government and they can probably be counted on to keep the peace.  Besides, a majority of the people currently residing in Jordan are actually Palestinians!

Despite its appeal, this proposal will no doubt fall on deaf ears. That’s because there is more money to be made from war than from peace. World War III anyone?

 

Epilogue

While we’re at it, let’s return North America (Canada and America) back to the Native Americans, have China return Tibet to the Tibetans and give North Korea back to South Korea.  Who would like the task of breaking the news to Kim Jong-un?

 

“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”

      – King Hussein of Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was visiting Israel recently and while driving around I was thrown off by their street and highway signs. The street signs, you see, are in Hebrew, English…and Arabic!  I wondered, why Arabic?  Well, it turns out that Arabic is an official national language of Israel (along with Hebrew naturally) and that’s why the street signs are also in Arabic.

Show of hands.  How many people already knew that Arabic was an official national language of Israel.  No one, of course.

That got me to thinking.  What else didn’t I know about Arabs in Israel.  Turns out that I didn’t know very much.  Here’s a short list:

  • The Arab population in Israel is approximately 1.7 million, which is more than 20% of the country’s total population. One in five Israelis are Arab!
  • Arab citizens are granted the same rights as Jewish citizens under law.  They are, in fact, Israeli citizens.
  • Arabs are allowed to serve in the Israeli military (although service is not mandatory).
  • Arabs have political representation in the Israeli Knesset and currently hold 17 of its 120 seats.  There currently is even an Arab serving as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court.

During my stay in Israel, I also noticed a number of other somewhat unusual things, at least from my perspective:

  • While shopping, I noticed that some of the shop owners were actually Arabs.
  • I saw an Arab woman jogging on the beach boardwalk (in jogging gear and headphones no less).
  • In the malls, I repeatedly ran into Arab women shopping without their husbands, sometimes attired in blue jeans (of all things).
  • Arabs from other countries come to Israel for medical care – even the King of Jordan, so I am told.

All of which made me question what an Israeli really is. There are over 1 million Russians that came to Israel in the 1990s. The current immigrant wave is from France and when you walk the streets in some cities you see large numbers of Anglo-Saxon looking people.  It’s very multi-cultural…

and, then, there’s the Israeli Arabs.

Turns out that Israeli Arabs enjoy more civil rights than Arabs living in any other Middle Eastern country. In fact, a study by the Harvard Kennedy School found that 77% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country.

So, street signs, blue jeans and headphones.  It sort of tells you something about the new reality of Israeli Arabs.

So Nancy Pelosi is at it again, essentially stating that Hamas is a humanitarian organization.  Way to go Nancy! John Kerry, for his part, has the backing of nearly all of the world’s major governments and yet has been ineffective in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.  So the needless violence continues.

A series of maps of Palestine have been making the rounds recently with no serious explanation of the context as to how this area has changed over the years.  Therefore, a little history lesson probably is required.

To begin with, the country of Palestine has never existed.  Never. No kidding.  The way that everyone talks about Palestine one would swear that Palestine was a real country, at least at some point in history; but no, Palestine has never been a country.

Palestine was the name given by Western powers to a large part of South Syria after the end of WWI, which ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire who ruled that area for the previous 600 years or so.  As for the Palestinians, the word was then used to refer to all people residing in the general region of Palestine, regardless of religion or ethnicity (even Christians and Jews).

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved into little pieces by world leaders. It was at that time that Iraq and Syria, for example, became nations for the first time.  Don’t ask   what gave them the authority to do that – more on that later. The League of Nations, a forerunner to the United Nations, mandated that a large area of the old Ottoman Empire would be set aside for a Jewish homeland.  That area was given the name Palestine, and accordingly their action was referred to as the Palestine Mandate. Once that was accomplished, they then carved out three-fourths of Palestine to create a new Arab state. Of course politics being what it is, the new Arab nation called Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), was given to the Hashemite family (Saudis) to rule because they aided the British in fighting the Turks (Ottoman Empire). The Palestinians, who made up the vast majority of the people living in Jordan (and still do), were left out in the cold.  Politics is wonderful, isn’t it?

Fast forward to 1967.  In 1967, Israel was attacked by neighboring Arab states and at the conclusion of the Six-Day War took possession of certain parts of Jordan (generally known as the West Bank), among other lands.  The United Nations has since declared that these are occupied territories.  Again, what gives the United Nations the right to dictate to sovereign nations?  Besides, down through history the winner of wars has always acquired so-called “occupied territories”. Otherwise by the same logic, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas are occupied territories because they were acquired by the U.S.A. as the result of their war with Mexico.  So once again, politics rules the day.

The seeds of discontent in the Middle East were sown by politicians at the end of World War I and their meddling continues to this day through the United Nations, or otherwise (for example, the U.S. government provides substantial financial support to both Israel and Hamas). The truth is that, in politics, war benefits many people whereas peace does not. Because of their financial support provided to both Israeli and Hamas, don’t you think that the U.S. government could pretty much dictate terms of a Middle East peace if they wanted to?  After all, they committed large numbers of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to presumably bring stability to those countries.  Why not to Palestine?  Politics is why not.

So the next time you hear the call for a Palestinian homeland, just remember that for politicians it is just rhetoric – part of the process of continuing the conflict rather than ending it.  After all, the Palestinians already have a homeland – it’s called Jordan.

 

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

     – H. L. Mencken

 

 

 

 

The Bible is considered by some to be the greatest story ever told.  Movies have been made retelling the biblical stories and major world religions are based on the Bible.  The only problem is that they never told the whole story.

In the beginning

For starters, Genesis was not the beginning; rather it’s simply a creation story that was borrowed from Babylonian/Sumerian mythology (namely, the “Epic of Gilgamesh”).  Many historians agree that Genesis, verses 1 and 2, are actually two separate stories from two different writers.  The first writer wrote,  “Then God said, I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it.  They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29), while the second writer wrote, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  In addition there were other inconsistencies between the two stories such as whether animals or humans were created first and whether man and woman were created simultaneously or Eve was subsequently created from Adam’s rib. Obviously, both stories cannot be correct.

As for the Noah flood story, it has significant parallels with the very same “Epic of Gilgamesh.” In any event, the Bible flood story cannot be original since there is no archaeological evidence of a global flood that corresponds to the dating given in the Bible.  Finally, with respect to the Ten Commandments, they were mostly written about in the much older Egyptian “Book of the Dead.”

Origins of the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is essentially the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.  The first five books of the Old Testament  are generally referred to as the Pentateuch, while others might refer to them as the Torah (the Mosaic Law). It has been said that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, however most historians would take exception to that idea.  Heck, for that matter you can’t even find Moses in the historical record so there is no proof that he even existed let alone wrote any religious scriptures.

Modern biblical scholarship generally states that during the 3,000 year period, stretching from Adam and Eve to the time of the Israelite exile in Babylon, the Israelites/Hebrews were polytheistic.  In other words, they worshipped other gods besides Jehovah.  This can be seen from the story in 2 Kings 22 about King Josiah (circa 610 BCE) and how he found the Torah scroll which had been previously lost for hundreds of years.  As the story goes, King Josiah intended to reintroduce the Book of the Law to the Israelites, but unfortunately he died soon thereafter and the Israelites continued their practice of worshipping many gods; this only eleven years before the beginning of the Babylonian exile.

So what changed?  Simply this: Beginning in the 6th century BCE, the Persians became rulers over most of the ancient world (the Achaemenid Empire it was called).  Now the Persians worshipped Ahura Mazda as part of their religion which was called Zoroastrianism.  One little known fact about Zoroastrianism is that it was the very first religion based on the concept of monotheism.  Ahura Mazda was omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.  Creation was accomplished in six days and began with a single couple. God (Ahura Mazda) gave his commandments to the Persian prophet Zoroaster on the top of a holy mountain (like the Moses story on Mt. Sinai).  All of this, of course, is eerily similar to the Pentateuch.

The Persian king held the fate of the Israelites in his hands.  Surprisingly, he allowed  them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple and what’s more he even paid for it!  When the Hebrew priests returned from exile, they brought back with them the Old Testament which they had first written in Babylon, an Old Testament that changed the oral tradition of many gods to the Zoroastrian’s monotheistic concept of one god.  In addition, they brought back what is referred to as the Babylonian Talmud; such was the beginning of Judaism as we know it today.

The genesis of a people and a religion

The Israelites themselves didn’t exist per se until the time of Jacob, a grandson of Abraham.  It was Jacob who was later renamed Israel, thus the source of the name Israelites.  As for Abraham, he originally came from the city of Ur, one of the twelve original city-states of Sumer, and therefore was a Sumerian.  When Abraham journeyed to Canaan, it was the Sumerian mythology that he brought with him – the very Persian/Babylonian mythology that wound up as the underpinnings of the Old Testament.  History and culture had come full circle.  The mythology that had first come to Canaan with Abraham morphed into the Israelites new religion in a religious renaissance of sorts.  In effect, the Hebrew priests took older writings (mostly from Sumerian origin) and created a history for the Hebrew people.  As for Jehovah, he was transformed from merely one in a pantheon of gods into a monotheistic “one and only god.”

Epilogue

That might have been the end of the story except for two things.  First, Abraham was more than just the patriarch of the Israelites.  He was also the patriarch of the Muslims and the Persians, was a Brahmin to the Hindus and an important figure in Christianity.  That important history is omitted from the Bible – a history that would provide the linkage and context regarding the commonality of the world’s major religions.  Secondly, Christianity had relied on the Pentateuch as their basis in understanding Creation and God.  In so doing, they unknowingly accepted Sumerian mythology and all that that implied.  Further, their understanding of Jesus was limited to the Old Testament prophecy that the future king of Israel would be descended from the priestly caste of Aaron, through King David.  This was true in a sense but, Jesus was, in reality, part of the higher order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  It was this mystical/spiritual Jesus, and his teachings, that are not reflected in the scriptures; a story that has yet to be told.  Until it is, the Bible will forever be the greatest story never told.

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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Growing up as a Christian, I always wondered why Christianity chose a Jew to be their savior. Somehow it just didn’t compute.  For that matter, why did Christianity accept Jehovah as God when he was in reality the personal god of the Chosen People?

In reading the Bible stories, it’s clear that Jesus set out to fulfill prophecy, from riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to allowing himself to be caught by the Romans and crucified.  There’s just one catch.  The biblical concept of a messiah was one of a Jewish messiah which was strictly for the Jewish people, which by definition excluded the Gentiles.  As part of their culture, Jews believed  that a messiah would be their king who would lead them to victory over their oppressors; King David was a prime example.  However, a spiritual messiah (such as Jesus) would have been all but unthinkable.

Other interesting sources on this subject are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible itself.  The Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that there could be two messiahs at any one time, one a king descended from David and one a high priest descended from the priestly caste of Aaron.  In addition, some people of Jesus’ time actually believed that John the Baptist was the messiah (see the Gospel of Mark).

The ultimate problem is that the Jews never accepted Jesus as their messiah because he didn’t qualify according to their reckoning and according to their culture (see, among other things, the Book of Isaiah).  Interestingly enough, Christians who believe in the virgin birth might be surprised to learn that this alone would make it impossible for Jesus to be the messiah.  The reason is that the messiah had to descend from the House of David and Jesus could only have descended from David if Joseph was his biological father.

Down through the ages, there have been many pretenders who wished to be the messiah or whose followers generously bestowed that title on him.  Of course, the world is still waiting for the one who will supposedly usher in a new age of peace.  According to the Book of Isaiah, it will be a time when the whole world will worship the one god of Israel and when all Israelites will have been returned to their homeland; and it will be a man who will be referred to as Immanuel.  Obviously, he hasn’t come yet.

The other day a friend of mine announced that he was leaving the Church (he’s Christian) but that he was considering accepting Jesus as his savior before he dies – just in case.  He described it as buying insurance to heaven!  It kind of reminds me of the old Eddie Money song “Two Tickets To Paradise.”

Zig Ziglar, who was once referred to as the world’s top salesman, referred to Jesus as the greatest salesman ever.  After all, how else could you get a free pass to paradise? However, this idea of accepting Jesus as the messiah just before you die takes the idea of salvation to an even more absurd level. More than one Christian that I know are living out their lives in the expectation that Jesus will save them in the end regardless.  Regardless!!  Is there no personal accountability for one’s actions during their lifetime?

In many older civilizations, people didn’t fear death but rather celebrated it. So the larger question that this issue raises is why all the emphasis on the fear of death and how did we get to this point?   For starters, belief systems (such as religion) are based on other people’s opinions.  Those opinions might be based on another person’s own personal experience or they might, in turn, be based yet on someone else’s opinion; and so and so on down through time until the source is but vaguely remembered, if at all.  People rarely stop and ask the question: Where does the belief system come from and why should I believe it?  Rather, they blindly accept it because it was passed on to them as part of their culture or tradition.

Now, Christianity understands death based on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, a belief which is a central tenet of their faith.  However as Carl Jung so eloquently stated, Christ’s rise from the dead is intended to be understood symbolically, not literally.  The Dead Sea Scrolls shed new light on the fact that the Jerusalem Church (at Qumran) led by Jesus’ brother James did not accept the Christian theology.  This is also evidenced by Paul’s own letters which are included as part of the New Testament.

In part, the problem stems from the Old Testament belief in the coming of a messiah.  In Jewish custom, a messiah was a king who would deliver them from their oppressors.  Actually, every King of Israel was considered to be a messiah (e.g. King David).  Essene texts actually refer to two messiahs, one a king descended from King David and the other a high priest descended from the priestly caste of Aaron.  In that regard, many of John the Baptist’s followers actually considered him to be a messiah as he was descended from Aaron.  Jesus has long been considered a messiah by Christianity because he descended from King David down through his father, Joseph.  However if you believe in the virgin birth, that would seem to disqualify Jesus on those grounds.

But the biggest problem lies in the fact, as Carl Jung said, that Christianity believes in the literal translation of the Bible.  Like all religions, Christianity was intended for the masses while the truly enlightened received the real message from secret societies.  Even today, secret societies pass down privileged information which is disclosed only to their initiates.   Beginning generally with the great Greek philosophers, the secrets of enlightenment were passed on through something called The Mysteries.  The Bible confirms the process of hiding the truth from the masses in a number of places, including Romans 16:25 (“Now to him that is of power to establish you to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.”) and in Matthew 13:11 ( “To you, the disciples, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, the masses, it has not been given.”

One of the secrets of The Mysteries and the true meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is that we can and do overcome death because death is simply an illusion.  It is only the body (matter) which decays and dies.  In order to understand the nature of death, one must realize that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings having a human experience. As spiritual beings that exist simultaneously in more than one dimension, our 3rd dimension consciousness is only aware of the sensory experience in this dimension.  When we die, we simply cease to have those 3rd dimension sensory experiences, but we continue to exist in other dimensions. (in a religious sense, we go to heaven).

One of the main reasons for the Christ Consciousness to enter our world was to reveal this secret of the ages about the nature of life and death.  Unfortunately, that message was co-opted, with the true meaning eventually buried under the weight of church dogma.  As perhaps you’ve heard me say before, “A church and a religion are not required (to understand God)…and never intended.”  So, who’s still interested in two tickets to paradise?