Christianity’s Criminal History, 77

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 
The Jewish apocalyptic

The apocalyptic genre (from the Greek apokálypsis) plays an important role, a kind of transitional role from the Old to the New Testament, especially in the epoch that goes from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD.

In the apocalyptic genre one can see a kind of Jewish eschatology, so to speak, an unofficial eschatology which extends to the cosmic: beyond the official national eschatology of the rabbis. Unlike the latter, the apocalyptic literature was universalistic. It encompassed Earth, heaven and hell. However, their followers carried rather an existence of secret meetings, similar to what happens today in many sects and their relations with the churches.

As stated above, the research sees in these writings a ‘link’ between the Old and New Testaments and assigns the apocalyptic genre an intermediate period between the two. This is all the more logical because the apocalyptic authors—Jews whose exact origin (Essenes, Pharisees) is difficult to establish—are falsifiers: people who did not write under their own names but with pseudonyms; who attribute their revelations of a primordial time, from the last hour, from the beyond, its mysterious manifestations of the future, of dreams, states of ecstasy (sometimes to heaven as, among others, Enoch and also the Christian apocalyptic writer John of Patmos) to ‘visions’ while the prophets are generally based on ‘auditions’. Often, the enlightened ones who have to illuminate us are accompanied by a revealing intermediary, an angelus interpres (exegete angel) who explains to the author what happened and, of course, to us.

Typical of this sort of prayer-ridden counterfeits is their dualistic concept of the world, deeply influenced by Iranian ideas, and their theory of the two eons, one temporary and the other eternal. Typical is that the seen events are about the end of times and the ‘pains of the Messiah’ are described as imminent. All this goes from horrible human and cosmic catastrophes (women stop giving birth, the earth becomes sterile, stars collide) to the Last Judgment and a messianic splendour painted full of fantasy. Of course, the sufferings of the wicked are included, which provided a strong consolation to the righteous, together with imperious warnings of penance and conversion.

The expectation of the proximity of the end is just as typical as the hope in the hereafter and there is determinism, since ‘God has everything planned’ (4 Ezra 6): the beginning and the end. ‘This world has been created by the Highest for many, but the future only for a few’ (4 Ezra 8, 1): a novel manifestation of his Summa Misericordiae (the sum of His mercy). It is also characteristic of these intermediate testamentaries that they introduce many mysterious figures (animals, clouds, mountains) and a complicated numerical symbolism: a religious coryphaeus of earlier times in the form of Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Ezra, Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Daniel. Theirs is an occult writing known only by a group of the elect, but now God wants to spread it.

The imposters often represent their visions of history as prophecies, in future form. Naturally, writing generally many centuries after the events and having placed their omens on their lips, they predict everything with great precision.

Their readers are amazed. So predisposed, they believe everything that they prophesied for a distant future about the horrors of the end and its magnificence. This pia fraus (loving fraud), this ‘representation of history as a vaticinium ex eventu’ (Vielhauer), has distant Old Testament parallelisms in the Pentateuch itself (Gen 49, Num 23 et seq., Deut 33) but its authentic model is, perhaps, in the oracle sibylline literature of the Hellenistic-Roman era.

In addition to the biblical falsification of the book of Daniel that we have already seen, there is also the book of Baruch [left: Gustave Doré’s illustration], presumably written by Baruch ben Neriah: the scribe, companion and friend of the prophet Jeremiah.

‘Baruch’, who appears as a messenger of God and experiences a multitude of visions, claims to have written his own book in Babylon, after the destruction of Jerusalem. He also says he knows and means much more than the prophets; and still in 1931 the Lexikonfür Theologie und Kirche did not ‘see any reason to doubt the authorship of Baruch’.

Today there are very few who claim the authenticity for this work of the Old Testament (as well as the book of ‘Daniel’) insofar as it was written half a millennium after Baruch: the first part perhaps in the 1st century BC (the farthest moment), the second part probably in the middle of the 1st century AD.

The forgeries almost always emerged as an internal necessity of the apocalyptic genre. They were widely used by the Christians and became typical of them. The easy way was simply to believe in the ‘works’ of ancient authorities—those of the twelve patriarchs; Daniel and Enoch, whose authenticity already Origen doubted, as well as the ‘works’ of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Ezra; in total a list of twenty names—, as their ‘prophecies’ and ‘revelations’ were being ‘fulfilled’.

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Christianity’s Criminal History, 76

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 
The same as the work of Isaiah, the book of Ezekiel, written almost all in the first person, unites prophecies of misfortunes and beatitudes, reprimands and threats with tempting hymns and omens. For a long time it was considered the undisputed writing of the most symbolic Jewish prophet, the man who in the year 597 BC left Jerusalem with King Jehoiakim to exile in Babylon.

Until the beginning of the 20th century Ezekiel’s book was almost universally seen as a work of the prophet himself and of true authenticity. From the investigations of literary criticism by R. Kraetzschmars (1900) and even more by J. Herrmann (1908, 1924), the opinion prevailed that this presumably unitary book emerged in stages and that a subsequent hand reworked it. Some researchers even attribute to Ezekiel only the poetic parts, assigning to the compiler the texts in prose.

In this scenario the compiler would have designed at least the bulk of the work: no less than five-sixths. According to W.A. Irwin, of the total of 1,273 verses only 251 come from Ezekiel and according to G. Hölscher, 170. Although other authors accept the authenticity of the text, they admit several redactions and editors, who interspersed falsified passages among those considered authentic and also manipulated the rest at their discretion. It is very significant that the Jewish tradition does not attribute the work to Ezekiel, but to the ‘men of the great synagogue’.

The book of Daniel was clearly and completely fabricated: something that, surprisingly, already affirms Porphyry, the great adversary of the Christians, in the 3rd century. Although his fifteen books Against the Christians were targeted for destruction by the first Christian emperor, something has been preserved in excerpts and quotations, among them the following phrases of Jerome in the prologue of his comments on Daniel:

Porphyry has destined, against the prophet Daniel, the book XII of his work. He does not want to admit that the book was written by Daniel, whose name appears on the title, but by someone who lived in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (that is, some 400 years later) in Judea, and maintains that Daniel did not predict anything of the future but simply told something of the past.

The book of Daniel would come from the prophet Daniel, who apparently lived in the 6th century BC in the royal court of Babylon and whose authorship has also been questioned in modern times by Thomas Hobbes. Critical research has long since stopped considering it an authentic book. But in 1931 the Catholic Lexikonfür Theologie und Kirche (Encyclopaedia for Theology and the Church) says: ‘The nucleus of the different episodes can reach very ancient times, even that of Daniel… Most of the Catholic exegetes essentially consider Daniel as the author of the book’.

The first-person form of the visions of chapters 7-12 and, of course, their place in the Holy Scriptures made the Christian tradition believe for a long time in the authorship of the book by Daniel: about whose life and acts they know only for his own work. It is probable that it was the last to reach the canon of the Old Testament and, from the traditionalist point of view, must be defended accordingly as authentic.

But it comes from the Revelations of the time of the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, probably from the year of the revolt of the Maccabees, 164 BC. Ergo the author lived long after the events described in the historical part of his book written in the third person (chapters 1-6). In this way, the ‘prophet Daniel’, who four centuries before is the servant of King Nebuchadnezzar in ‘Babel’ and who understands ‘stories and dreams of all kinds’, can easily prophesy. This is what Porphyry had discovered.

Consequently, in the historical epoch of the book in which Daniel presumably lived and described, the ‘prophet’ mixes everything. Thus, Balthazar, the organiser of the famous banquet, although was a regent he was not ‘king’. Balthazar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar but of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king (555-539). Artaxerxes did not come before Xerxes but after him and ‘Darius the Mede’ is not a historical figure at all. In short, ‘Daniel’ knew more about visions than about the time he lived.

Special forgeries of the Septuagint are also some well-known pieces, which Catholics call Deuterocanonics and Protestants apocryphal: the story of the Three Boys in the Fiery Furnace [Left: Gustave Doré’s illustration], the story of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon. All these special fabrications appear today in the Catholic Bible.

The book of Daniel is the oldest apocalypse and, among all the apocalyptic literature. the only one that reaches the Old Testament and consequently becomes canonical. In the Catholic Bible there is another forgery, Baruch’s ‘Deuterocanonical’ book, with which we turn our attention to a special literary genre, made up of obvious falsifications, which later goes on in an organic and integral way into Christianity.

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Christianity’s Criminal History, 72

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 

Fabrications in the Old Testament

The boldest, daring and of greatest consequence of this type was to attribute to the spirit and dictation of God all the writings of the Old and New Testaments.

—Arnold Meyer

 

The bibles of the world and some peculiarities of the Christian Bible

The ‘book of books’ of Christians is the Bible. The German translation Bibel appears for the first time in the moral poem ‘The runner’ of Bamberg’s school teacher and verse builder, Hugo von Trimberg (born around 1230, he was also the author of a collection of homiletic fables and about two hundred hagiographic almanacs). The term coined by Hugo derives from the Latin biblia, which in turn has its origin in the neutral plural ta biblia (the books).

The Bible is a ‘sacred’ scripture and texts. Books and sacred writings form, in the history of religions, part of the trade, of the business on which it depends closely and not only the monetary but also the political and, ultimately, anyone sheltered by the human heart.

The bibles of mankind are therefore numerous: the three Vedas of ancient India, for example, the five Ching canonical books of the Chinese imperial religion, the Siddhanta of Jainism, the Typitakam of Theravada Buddhism, the Dharma of Mahayana Buddhism in India, the Tripitakam of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tao-tea-ching of Taoist monks, the Avesta of Persian Mazdaism, the Qur’an in Islam, the Granth of the Sikhs, the Gima of Mandeism. There were many sacred writings in the Hellenistic mysteries, which were already referred to in the pre-Christian era simply with the word ‘writing’, or with the formula ‘is written’ or ‘as written’. In Egypt the sacred writings go back to the most ancient times and a sacred text has already been cited in the 3rd millennium BC, Words of God (mdw ntr).

Of course, we know that the Bible is not just a book among other books but the book of books. It is not, therefore, a book that can be equated with Plato’s, the Qur’an or the old books of Indian wisdom. No, the Bible ‘is above them; it is unique and unrepeatable’ (Alois Stiefvater). In its exclusivity, the monotheistic religions insist with emphasis—and that is precisely why they are, so to speak, exclusively intolerant! ‘Just as the world cannot exist without wind, neither it can without Israel’ says the Talmud. In the Qur’an it is said: ‘You have chosen us from among all the peoples; you have raised us above all the nations’. And Luther also boasts: ‘We Christians are bigger and more than all creatures’.

In short, the Bible is something special. But Christianity did not have its own ‘Sacred Scripture’ in its first 150 years, and for that reason it assimilated the sacred book of the Jews, the Old Testament, which according to the Catholic faith precedes ‘the Sun of Christ’ as the ‘morning star’ (Nielen).

The name Old Testament (Greek diathéke, covenant) comes from Paul, who in 2 Cor. 3:14 talks about the Old Covenant. The synagogue, which naturally recognizes no New Testament, does not speak of the Old but of Tanakh, an artificial word formed by the initials of Torah, nevi’im and ketuvim: law, prophets, and remaining writings.

The Old Testament, as they were transmitted by the Hebrews are, to date, the Holy Scriptures of the Jews. The Palestinian Jews did not establish the final received texts until the Council of Jamnia, between the 90s and 100 AD: twenty-four texts, the same number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (The Jewish bibles of the 15th century were the first that proceeded to a different division and gave rise to thirty-nine canonical books.) In any case, God, to whom these Sacred Scriptures refer and from which they come, needed more than a millennium to compile and finalise the Bible.

The unique thing about the Christian Bible is that each of the different confessions also has different bibles, which do not coincide as a whole; and what some consider sacred, to others seem suspicious.

The Catholic Church distinguishes between Protocanonical writings, that is, never discussed, and Deuterocanonical writings whose ‘inspiration’ was for some time ‘put into doubt’ or was considered uncertain. This Church has a much wider Old Testament than that of the Jews, from which it proceeds. Besides the Hebrew canon, it collected within its Holy Scriptures other titles. In total, according to the Council of Trent in its session of April 8, 1546, confirmed by Vatican I in 1879: forty-eight books, that is, in addition to the so-called Deuterocanonics, Tobias, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and letters of Jeremiah, Maccabees I and II, Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children (Vulgate, Daniel 3:24–90), Story of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14; Septuagint epilogue), Esther 10, 4-16, 24.

On the contrary, Protestantism, which gives authority exclusively to the books that appear in the Hebrew canon, does not consider as canonical or manifested by God, the Deuterocanonics added by Catholicism. It grants them little value and calls them ‘apocryphal’, that is, that what Catholics call books never had canonical validity.

Luther, in defining what belonged to the canon, relies on the ‘inner spiritual testimony’ or the ‘internal sense’. He eliminates, for example, the second book of the Maccabees because Luther was disturbed by the passage on the purgatory, whose existence he denied. On that same book and also on that of Esther, Luther opined that ‘they have too many Jewish and pagan remnants’. Nevertheless, he considered the Deuterocanonical writings to be ‘useful and good to read’ although were not inspired by God, in any case by the ‘internal sense’ of the reformer.

An early German translation by Martin Luther.
His translation into the vernacular was highly influential.

In the Synod of Jerusalem, the Greek Church included, in 1672, among the divine word four other works that did not appear in the Council of Jamnia: Wisdom, Ecclesiastical, Tobias, and Judith.

Much broader than the Old Testament was the canon of Hellenistic Judaism, the Septuagint (abbreviated: LXX, the translation of the seventy men). It was elaborated for the Jews of the Diaspora in Alexandria by various translators in the 3rd century BC: the book for the Greek-speaking Jews, the oldest and most important transcription of the Old Testament into Greek, the language of the Hellenistic period, and the official Bible of Diaspora Judaism. It became part of the synagogue.

The Septuagint, however, collected more writings than the Hebrew canon and more also from those later considered valid by Catholics. The quotations of the Old Testament that appear in the New (with the allusions 270 to 350) come mostly from the Septuagint and it constituted for the Fathers of the Church, who used it with insistence, the Old Testament or Holy Writ.

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Apocalypse for whites • VI

by Evropa Soberana

‘When the Macedonians seized power [in Judea], King Antiochus sought to extirpate their superstitions and introduce Greek habits to transform that inferior race’.

—Tacitus, History

 
The Hellenistic legacy

To understand the virulent ethnic conflicts that occurred during the Roman domination, it is necessary to go back a few years and place ourselves in the era of the Macedonian domination, since the Greek social strata bequeathed from the conquest of Alexander the Great had a lot to do with the uprisings of Jewry and the long history of hatred, tensions, reprisals and counter-reprisals that followed one another thereafter.

When Alexander the Great was on his way to conquer Egypt he passed through Judea, and the Jewish community, fearful that they would destroy Jerusalem, did with the Macedonians what they used to do whenever there was a new triumphant invader: betray their former lords and welcome the invader with open arms. Thus, just as they had betrayed the Babylonians with the Persians, they betrayed the Persians with the Macedonians. Grateful, Alexander granted them extensive privileges; for example, in Alexandria they were legally equated with the Greek population.

This point is important, because the legal status of the Alexandrian Jews—who would constitute almost half of the city’s population—later led to bitter misgivings on the part of the Greek community, leading to riots, which we will see later.

When Alexander the Great died in the year 323 BCE, he left a vast legacy. The whole area he had dominated, from Egypt to Afghanistan, received a strong Hellenisation which produced the period called Hellenistic, to differentiate it from the classical Hellenic. The Macedonian generals, the so-called Diadochi, foolishly fought among themselves to establish their own empires, and in this case we will be interested in the empire of the Ptolemies (centered in Egypt) and that of the Seleucids (centered in Syria) because Israel, between both, would become part of the first and finally, in 198 BCE, annexed by the Seleucids.

Under the umbrella of Alexandrian protection, the Jews were spread not only in Palestine and the Near East, but throughout Rome, Greece and North Africa. In these areas already existed well-organized, rich and powerful Jewish Qahals, all of them connected to Judea, the nucleus of Judaism. In Jewish society, some social sectors would absorb the Hellenisation which, with the fermentation of the centuries, produced a cosmopolitan breeding ground that would lead to the birth of Christianity. Other Jewish sectors, the most multitudinous, clung to their traditional xenophobia and began to react against those who, in the lead of Alexander the Great, had received them as saviours.

Although the Near East was a hotbed of Egyptians, Syrians (also called Chaldeans or Arameans, whose language was lingua franca in the area, being spoken regularly by the Jews), Arabs and others, the traditionalist Jews saw with great displeasure that Asia Minor and Alexandria were filling up with Greeks who, naturally, were pagans and, therefore, in Jewish thought, infidels: ungodly and idolatrous, as had been the hated Egyptians, Babylonians and Persians before them.

With time, to the discomfort of these sectors of the Jewish quarter adverse to assimilate into the Greek culture, a series of measures decreed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, were added. In December of the year 168 BCE, Antiochus literally forbade Judaism, attempting to extirpate the cult of Yahweh, suppressing any Jewish religious manifestation, placing circumcision outside the law and even forcing Jews to eat foods considered religiously ‘unclean’.

The Greeks imposed an edict by which an altar to the Greek gods should be built in every city in the area, and Macedonian officials would be distributed to ensure that in every Jewish family the Greek gods were worshiped. Here, the Macedonians demonstrated elemental clumsiness as they did not know the Jewish people. According to the Old Testament (2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees), those who remained faithful to the Mosaic Law, Antiochus had them burned alive and the Orthodox Jews who escaped to the desert were persecuted and massacred. These statements should be taken with caution, but what is clear is that there was anti-Jewish repression in general.

What were these measures? We must bear in mind that the pagan world was a world of religious tolerance, in which religions were not persecuted just like that. However, in Judaism, the Greek sovereigns saw a political doctrine that potentially could turn the subversive Jews against the pagan states that dominated them. They were hostile towards the other peoples of the planet, and therefore, a threat. In this context, it is possible that the first manifestations of religious intransigence came from the Jewish side among other things because, as I said, the ancient pagan Greeks were never religiously intransigent or intolerant. Such intransigence was not funny for the Macedonians, who considered their gods symbols of their own people.

The fact is that in that year, 168 BCE, Antiochus sacrificed nothing more and nothing less than a pig on the altar of the temple of Jerusalem, in homage to Zeus. This act was considered a double desecration: On the one hand because it was a pig (a profane animal of Semitic creeds like Judaism and Islam), and on the other because that was the first step of consecrating the entire temple to the Olympian Zeus and to convert Jerusalem into a Greek city.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Seleucid king and descendant of Seleucus I Nicator, perhaps the most brilliant of the generals of Alexander the Great. According to Jewish tradition, this Macedonian king, by desecrating the altar of the temple in Jerusalem and sprinkling it with pig’s blood, was possessed by a demon: the same who will possess the anti-Messiah or the ‘coming prince’ spoken of in the Old Testament (Daniel, 9:26).

This sacrilegious act brought a strong reaction from the fundamentalist sectors of the Jewish quarter. The most zealous rabbis began to preach a kind of holy war against the Greek occupation, urging the Jews to rebel, and when the first Jew timidly decided to make an offering to the Greek Zeus, a rabbi, Mattathias Maccabeus, murdered him.

The ethnic turmoil that followed led to the period known as the Maccabean wars (years 167-141 BCE), of which there is much talk in the Old Testament (Maccabees). Carrying out, with the Hassidim (the ‘pious Jews’, also called Chassidim or Chassidic) a guerrilla war against the Macedonian troops surrounded on all sides, the ‘Maccabees’ were finally spared from being overwhelmed when an anti-Greek rebellion broke out in Antioch, and crushed the influence of the Hellenizing Jews.

Judas Maccabeus, who succeeded Mattathias renewing the cycle of treason, would even negotiate with the Romans to secure their support. In fact, the Roman Senate would formally recognize the Hasmonean dynasty in 139 BCE, without suspecting the headaches that this remote land would give them in the near future.

During this time, in addition to the Hellenised Jews, two other important Jewish factions would be formed, also in bitter dispute: on the one hand, the Pharisees, a fundamentalist sector that had the support of the multitudes; and on the other, the Sadducees, a group of priests more ‘progressive’, more ‘bourgeois’, in better dealings with the Greeks and who in the future would be victims of the ‘cultural revolution’ that the Pharisees carried out after the fall of Jewry in the hands of Rome.

Their writings would be destroyed by the Romans, so the vision we have today of the panorama is the point of view of the Pharisees, from whom would come the lineages of orthodox rabbis who would complete the Talmud. The Hasmonean dynasty, in spite of numerous swings and changes, would be essentially pro-Sadduceean.

Antiochus

Greek effigy coin of
Antiochus IV Epiphanes

A couple of days ago I resuscitated the idea of adding here further excerpts from the monumental Criminal History of Christianity. Four years ago I purposely left those excerpts with a short entry because Deschner’s last sentence provided much food for thought: “If the stringent measures against the Jews by Antiochus IV had taken effect, it would not only have meant the end of Judaism, but also ‘would have prevented the rise of Christianity and Islam.’ Our imagination almost fails to conceive a world so different…”

It is a pity that the sources for understanding the revolt of the Maccabees are the Old Testament and Josephus: both Jewish sources. Even so, what happened 2183 years ago can be deduced from those texts.

Early in 167 BC, the Greek Hellenistic king Antiochus sent an army to Jerusalem. He did it on Saturday so the Jews could not carry weapons. Thus, the Hellenistic forces entered the Jewish city without finding opposition. The soldiers of Apollonius, the general of Antiochus, destroyed much of Jerusalem and set up camp on a hill from which the Temple was dominated. That hill would turn into a citadel: the stronghold of the white man in Jerusalem in the next quarter-century.

Antiochus then proceeded to act directly against the Jews. He ordered them to accept the Greek customs; to desecrate the Sabbath and the feasts, to build altars for the white man’s gods, and to immolate therein animals which the Jews considered impure. The decree of Antiochus ended with these words: “Whoever does not obey the orders of the king shall be put to death.”

The very Jewish law became the target of the decrees of Antiochus. “You could not observe the Sabbath, keep the country feasts, or even declare yourself a Jew.” The possession of the Scriptures was a capital offense, and members of a congregation who were caught secretly celebrating the Sabbath were burned alive. “Two women were denounced for having circumcised their children. They tied the children to their breasts, so they walked about the city and threw them down the wall. ”

On the occasion of the festival of Dionysius, orthodox Jews were forced to parade in the procession. In the middle of the drums and voices in honour of the Greek god of wine, they marched with wreaths of ivy, symbol of the foreign god. Later, the whole procession, under pain of death, was exhorted to eat pork.

The way the Jews first reacted was by writing the Book of Daniel. The authors deceived the Jerusalemites into believing it to be a remote text they had just unearthed. As literary criticism has revealed the Book of Daniel was a trick: a vaticinium ex eventu or foretelling after the event written during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is from that book that the phrase of the abomination of desolation, desolating sacrilege, became famous.

Just compare how pre-Christian Aryans dealt with Jerusalem’s Jews with the standing ovations for Prime Minister Netanyahu in the American Congress last year! It is a pity that memes like “white sharia” are becoming popular among some white nationalists while the purely Aryan meme that should become popular is Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of all values” (see for example my post on Sweden I published today).

If nationalists transvalued Judaic values back to Aryan values, a new constellation of saints of the Ancient World would emerge. Not only the Judeo-Christian names would become gradually repudiated in the generations to come, they would even name their sons after Antiochus, Vercingetorix and Hermann.

Back in 2012 I asked in this blog, Why do we not celebrate the victory of Antiochus IV over the Jews, or Titus’ conquest of Jerusalem? The transvalued individual might well start calling the Hellenistic king as St Antiochus.

Gospel Fictions, 7


 
Below, part of Gospel Fictions’ seventh chapter, “Resurrection fictions” by Randel Helms (ellipsis omitted between unquoted passages):


 
The earliest extended statement about the Easter experiences appears not in the Gospels but in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It dates from the early 50’s, some twenty years after the crucifixion. Paul’s statement is as interesting for what it does not say as for what it does:

I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas, and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred of our brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. (15:2-7)

None of these appearances, in anything like the sequence Paul lists, is depicted in the four Gospels. Moreover, not one of the Gospel resurrection appearances is identical to those listed by Paul. Paul did not know the Gospel resurrection stories, for the simple reason that they had not yet been invented, and the four evangelists, who wrote twenty to fifty years after Paul, either did not know his list of appearances or chose to ignore it.

Perhaps most surprising of all the differences is Paul’s failure to mention the legend of the empty tomb, which was, for the writer of the earliest Gospel (Mark), the only public, visible evidence for the resurrection. Though Paul vigorously attempts to convince the Christians at Corinth, some of whom apparently doubted, that Jesus indeed rose from the dead (“if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain”), he never mentions this most striking piece of evidence.

Indeed, he had probably never heard of it; it was a legend that grew up in Christian communities different from his own. It may even have post-dated his death, for Mark wrote almost twenty years after his letter to Corinth. Worse yet, Paul would not have agreed with Mark’s theology even had he known it; for Paul, resurrection meant not the resuscitation of a corpse involving the removal of a stone and the emptying of a tomb, but a transformation from a dead physical body to a living spiritual one. “Flesh and blood can never possess the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).

Not only is St Paul apparently unaware of the resurrection narratives recorded in the Gospels, but his own list of appearances is irreconcilable with those of the evangelists written later. Paul has it that the first appearance of the risen Lord was to Cephas (he always calls Peter by his Aramaic name, and apparently knows no stories about him in Greek). The Gospels describe no initial resurrection appearance to Peter (some women, the number varying from three to two to one, see him first), though Luke says that Peter did see him. According to equally irreconcilable accounts on the Gospels, the first appearance was to Mary Magdala alone (John), or to Mary Magdala and the other Mary (Mathew), or to Mary Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James (Luke). Again, Paul declares that the second resurrection appearance was to the “twelve,” whereas both Mathew and Luke stress that the appearance before the disciples was to the “eleven,” Judas being dead. Either Paul did not know the story about the defection and suicide of Judas Iscariot or else the “twelve” meant something different to him.

In other words, different centers of early Christianity produced their own collections of evidence of Jesus’ resurrection; these grew up independently and had, in the cases considered so far, almost nothing to do with each other. Of course, the most famous of the stories appear in the Gospels. Already in the mid-first century A.D., when Paul first wrote to the Corinthians, the idea was well established that Jesus rose again “on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (15:34). That is to say, Christians had scoured the Old Testament for passages that could, out of context, be interpreted as ancient oracles about the career of Jesus.

This involved interpretative methods that to modern eyes seem bizarre. Matthew’s assertion, in 21:4-5, based on his failure to understand the parallelism in the language of Zech. 9:9, that Jesus rode into Jerusalem astride two animals at once, is such an example. Moreover, the length of Jesus’ stay in the tomb was computed by reading Hosea 6:1-2 out of context, it being the only passage in the Old Testament with an “on the third day” allusion:

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us and will heal us,
he has struck us and he will bind up our wounds;
after two days he will revive us,
on the third day he will restore us,
that in his presence we may live.

Hosea is, in these verses, not discussing the career of a holy man seven hundred years in the future. He is addressing his own countrymen in his own time, calling upon a corrupt people for moral and religious reform, berating people of whom one could say:

Their deeds are outrageous.
At Israel’s sanctuary I have seen a horrible thing:
there Ephraim played the wanton
and Israel defiled himself. (Hos. 6:10)

Some early Christians were aware of the paucity of Old Testament predictions about the length of Jesus’ stay in the tomb, and set about to invent more. Matthew’s additional evidence contains a prophecy in conflict with his own resurrection narrative. According to this evangelist, Jesus was buried on Friday just before sundown, and the tomb was found empty at sunrise on Sunday; thus, Jesus was presumably in the tomb two nights and one day. Nonetheless, Matthew imputed to Jesus the following, composed out of the Book of Jonah: “Jonah was in the sea-monster’s belly for three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).

The oldest Christian narratives describing the discovery of the empty tomb on the third day appears in the Gospel of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic oils intending to go and anoint him; and very early on the Sunday morning, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were wondering among themselves who would roll away the stone for them from the entrance to the tomb, when they looked up and saw that the stone, huge as it was, had been rolled back already. They went into the tomb, where they saw a youth sitting on the right-hand side, wearing a white robe; and they were dumbfounded. But he said to them, “Fear nothing; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here; look, there is the place where they laid him. But go and give this message to his disciples and Peter: ‘He will go on before you into Galilee and you will see him there, as he told you’.” Then they went out and ran away from the tomb, beside themselves with terror. They said nothing to anybody, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8).

The most ancient manuscripts of Mark end at this point, one of the strangest and most unsatisfying moments in all the Bible, depicting fear and silence on Easter morning and lacking a resurrection appearance. But within about fifty years, at least five separate attempts were made by various Christian imaginations to rewrite Mark’s bare and disappointing story; they appear in the Long Ending and the Short Ending of Mark, and in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John.

The first two are second-century interpolations in some texts of Mark and are identified as such in any responsible modern text. They are Mark 16:9-20 (in the King James version and others based on late manuscripts), an unskillful paraphrase of resurrection appearances in other Gospels; and Mark 16:9 in few other late manuscripts, in which the women followed the youth’s instructions to tell the disciples, a statement that conflicts with verse 8 of the original text.

Probably the first large-scale effort to rewrite Mark’s account and make it more pleasing to the faithful took place when the Gospel of Mathew was written in the last two decades of the first century. Although the major written source information was the Gospel of Mark, Matthew made up striking changes in Mark’s resurrection narrative. Mark’s account ends with the women running away from the tomb in terror and in their fear say nothing to anybody. Matthew did not like this ending, however, so he changed it, consciously constructing a fictional narrative that more closely fit what he and his Christian community wanted to have happen on Easter morning: “They hurried away from the tomb in awe and great joy, and ran to tell the disciples” (Matt. 28:8). How did Matthew feel justified in making such a major change in Mark, a source he obviously regarded, for the most part, as authoritative?

The answer is that Matthew was a conscious literary artist who sincerely believed in the resurrection; moreover, he believed he had the authority, granted him by his church and by its interpretation of the Old Testament, to “correct” Mark’s Gospel and theology. Indeed, he had corrected Mark many times before, often doing so on the basis of what he regarded as his superior understanding of the oracles in the Old Testament. For since Jesus’ life happened “according to the Scriptures,” early Christians were confident that in order to find out about him, they did not need to engage in historical research or consult witness (in our understanding of these two approaches); they found detailed history in the ancient oracles of the Hebrew Bible, read as a book about Jesus.

Matthew was a careful student of both the Old Testament and of Mark, which in his time was not yet accepted as canonical Scripture and thus could be changed at need. His study revealed how frequently Mark’s Gospel was transparent upon Scripture (or based upon it), and in ways that Mark himself apparently did not recognize. Mark had composed his Gospel on the basis of earlier oral and written sources, which in turn had found much of their information about Jesus in the Old Testament. Though Mark seems not to have realized that this was so, Matthew readily recognized the relationships between Mark and the Old Testament, and even took it upon himself to extend and correct them.

In this case he saw Mark’s resurrection narrative as transparent upon de Book of Daniel, especially chapter 6, the story of the lion’s den. On recognizing the relationship, Matthew seems to have consulted the Septuagint version of Daniel and believed that he found there details of a more accurate account of the happenings of the Sunday morning than could be found in the pages of Mark; never mind that Daniel’s narrative is a story in the past tense about presumed events in the distant past. Matthew ignored its narrative and historical content and turned it into a prophetic oracle, as had the originators of Mark’s story.

It seems clear that in a literary sense at least, Matthew was right: the account of the empty tomb used by Mark was indeed structured on Daniel’s story of the lion’s den. In the 30’s and 40’s, the empty tomb story was not part of the tradition about the resurrection: Paul was unaware of it. The legend grew in Mark’s community, or one from which it borrowed, as part of its stock of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. As Matthew was to do again nearly a generation later, certain Christians, perhaps in the 50’s and 60’s, searched the Old Testament, a major source of what was for them authoritative information about Jesus, in order to construct their account of the passion and resurrection, and found in the Book of Daniel much of what they needed. Consider the parallels. […]

[Helms’ text cannot be copied and pasted in the internet. Above I typed directly pages 129 to 135 from his book, Gospel Fictions, Prometheus Books, 1988. But I’ll omit Helms’ detailed account of these parallels and jump to page 142:]

In sum, we may say that Matthew’s account of the resurrection is a fictional enlargement of Mark’s fictional narrative, produced, at least in part, because of what he saw as the incomplete and inadequate nature of Mark’s last chapter. Certainly, Matthew sincerely believed in the resurrection; he also believed that his version of the story was more authoritative, more “scriptural,” than Mark’s, but his sincerity does not make the story less fictive. The same may be said of Luke’s enlargement of the Markan resurrection account.

The Gospel of Luke is, like that of Matthew, an expanded revision of Mark. Of Mark’s 661 verses, some 360 appear in Luke, either word-for-word or with deliberate changes. Some of the most dramatic of these changes appear in Luke’s version of Mark’s resurrection narrative.

Luke’s most significant change from Mark—the totally different angelic message at the tomb—finds its origin not in the Old Testament, however, but in Luke’s need to prepare his readers for the story of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, which he also wrote. In the version of the story Luke wishes to present, the disciples cannot be ordered, or even allowed, to leave Jerusalem for Galilee; they must remain for the all-important Pentecost experience.

Matthew composed a Galilee resurrection appearance using the Book of Daniel as the source of what Jesus would have said. But Luke eliminates the angels’ statement that the risen Jesus is going to Galilee; in contrast to Matthew, who composes a new statement for Jesus out of the youth’s speech in Mark (“take word to my brothers that they are to leave to Galilee”—Matt. 28:10), Luke imputes to Jesus a new saying that demands quite the opposite: “Stay here in this city until you are armed with the power from above” (Luke 24:49).

Luke thus presents resurrection appearances only in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Mark implies, and Matthew specifically declares, that Jesus, followed later by his disciples, left Jerusalem immediately after his resurrection and went to Galilee some eighty or ninety miles to the north, where they all met. Luke writes (Acts 1:3-4) that the risen Jesus “over a period of forty days… appeared to them and taught them about the kingdom of God. While he was in their company he told them not to leave Jerusalem.” For Luke, the story of Pentecost, described in the second chapter of Acts, overshadowed any assertion that the disciples were in Galilee meeting Jesus; they had to be in Jerusalem, so he placed them there and constructed a saying by Jesus to justify this change.

The fourth evangelist, John (who was not the Apostle, but a Christian who wrote at the very end of the first century), possessed a collection of resurrection narratives different from those used by Matthew and Luke, and irreconcilable with them.

In Luke, when the women returned to the disciples with the joyous news that the tomb was empty and that two angels had declared Jesus risen, “The story appeared to them to be nonsense, and they would not believe” (24:11); but in John, when Peter and the other disciples hear the women’s message, they run to the tomb and find it empty, whereat, says John, they “believed” (20:28). […]

The Gospel of John , as originally written (circa 100 A.D.), ended immediately after Jesus’ appearance before the doubting Thomas. Early in the second century, however, certain Christians to whom the gospels of Mathew and Luke were important, recognized that both these earlier works stress, in opposition to John, that the resurrection appearances occurred in Galilee as well as Jerusalem. They took it upon themselves to reconcile John with the others by adding a twenty-first chapter.

That this section is not by the author of the rest of the Gospel is clear from the prominence it gives to the “sons of Zebedee” (John 21:2), who are mentioned by this name nowhere else in the Fourth Gospel, though they are central figures in the Synoptics. A major propose of this addition, and another sign of its late date, is betrayed by the last saying attributed to Jesus in the chapter. For no reason apparent in the narrative, we are told that Peter “saw” an unnamed disciple, the one “whom Jesus loved,” and asked Jesus, “What will happen to him?” Jesus’ response was, “If it should be my will that he should wait until I come, what is that to you? Follow me.”

The saying of Jesus became current in the brotherhood, and was taken to mean that the disciple would not die. But in fact Jesus did not say that he would not die, he only said “If it should be my will that he should wait until I come, what is that to you?” (21:21-23)

Obviously, this disciple (in fact all the first-generation Christians) had long since died, and Jesus showed no signs of returning. The tradition persisted, however, that those were the words of Jesus, for the first generation indeed confidently expected the early return of their Lord (had he not said, in Mark 9:1, “There are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God already come”?). A saying had to be constructed that would not only demystify and reinterpret this persistent legend, so troubling to the faithful, but solve the apologetic problem it presented. Chapter 21 exists, in part, for this purpose; and though the attempt is an unconvincing quibble, it had to be made.

The resurrection narratives in the last chapters of the four Gospels are effective stories that have given solace and hope to millions of believers who have not read them carefully.