It's something what little we know about arguably the most famous human being in the history of Western Civilization. Over the past 2,000 years no person has been written about more in Western culture than Jesus Christ. Millions of people around the world equate this name with the greatest form of joy and love imaginable, and glory and magnificence beyond belief, as well as with the hope for salvation. But do they know who he really was? Does anyone?
The Bible describes him as the son of the Mosaic god, and the messiah the Jewish people had been waiting for. According to the Bible he was adopted by a poor carpenter named Joseph, yet from the royal Davidic line, Joseph being a descendent of Solomon, and his mother, Mary, a descendent of David. According to the Gospels he started his career as a preacher at the age of thirty, which began with his being baptized at the Jordan River by John the Baptist, at which the Gospels say the holy spirit from the Mosaic god came upon him. As you will see later, this is where I believe he started his career as a king, rather than as a preacher. Taking the Gospels at their word, however, he thereafter made a name for himself preaching and performing miracles, but he was crucified by the Romans at the age of thirty-three for claiming to be the king of the Jews. The Bible indicates that he then rose from the dead on the third day following the crucifixion, spent forty more days on Earth, during which time he appeared to some of his Jewish acquaintances, including the twelve apostles he was closest to, and finally he ascended into heaven to be with his father, the Mosaic god.
Obviously the claims that he was a son of a god, performed miracles, and resurrected from the dead have been hotly debated. While we have no writings in our possession about Christ that were written during his lifetime, we have a few writings dated a minimum of twenty years following his crucifixion that would suggest the resurrection happened. These writings came from Saint Paul, a Jew who became a Roman citizen early in his life, and a persecutor of Christians after the crucifixion. He never met Christ during his lifetime, but he did believe he'd had an encounter with Christ on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians several years following the crucifixion. This encounter involved a great deal of light, which allegedly blinded him for several days, although this may have been merely a metaphor for a sudden belief that the Romans had blinded him from his true nature, and how he'd possibly began desiring to return to his true roots, as a Jew. Regardless of what he really meant, Paul became a Christian after this encounter, and he wrote I Corinthians 15 3-8 sometime between 50 and 60 AD, which is believed by a consensus of scholars to have come from an earlier creed, possibly written just several years following the crucifixion. This passage clearly states that Christ rose from the dead and appeared to people after the resurrection, including "five hundred of the brothers and sisters all at once," and some of whom were still alive at the time he did the writing.
As possibly the best evidence to suggest the resurrection was real, I Corinthians 15 3-8 remains hearsay written long after the fact. Still evidence, an extraordinary claim like a human resurrection would require extraordinary evidence. Thus, an extraordinary burden of proof. This burden of proof has clearly not been satisfied in the Bible. I have nothing against putting faith above reason, and believing in the resurrection based on the grim evidence for it the Bible provides, but my intent here is to disclose a more reasonable and believable theory about who Jesus really was, and I believe the answer lies in the second paragraph of this article.
According to the Bible Christ was the proper heir to the throne of Judea, based on the Davidic line of royalty. The kings of Israel that descended from David began obviously with David around 1,000 BC, and ended with Zedekiah at the time of the Babylonian exile around 590 BC. Following the Babylonian exile the Jews weren't able to have a king again until Aristobulus I, around 104 BC. Aristobulus I was the first Hasmonean king of Israel, which means he was not from the Davidic line, but rather from the Maccabean war leaders who lead Judea to independence around 170 BC. Many Jewish sects despised this deviation from tradition, believing the Davidic line should have continued, but there was nothing much they could do about it.
In 63 BC the Romans conquered Jerusalem under General Pompey, ending their independent nation once again. However, the Romans did not make Judea a province of the empire, and allowed the Hasmonean kings to remain as rulers of Judea, declaring Herod the Great as the Judean king around 40 BC. Then, around 6 AD, while Christ was still a child, something that probably felt like fate to the believers in the Davidic line occurred. Herod the Great had died in 4 BC, and having himself executed a great deal of his own offspring, presumably on account of paranoia, the Romans had a mess to sift through in determining who to rule Judea next. In the end Herod Archaelaus was declared the ruler of Judea by Roman Emporer, Caesar Augustus, but he was not given the title of king. He ruled only until 6 AD when, on account of his extreme acts of cruelty, a delegation of Jews convinced the Romans to ban him to Gaul, after which his territory became the province of Judea, ruled exclusively by the Romans, (although they empowered a few of the Herod family members as puppets to the Roman empire to rule over certain small territories, including Herod Antipas over Galilee, where Jesus was from).
This transition of authority from Judea to the Romans by way of making Judea a province of the empire would have infuriated many Jews, knowing they'd have to live more by the rules of the empire, and likely pay more taxes. Christ, witnessing a greater Roman presence in Galilee while he was a child, may have felt inspired to do something about this atrocity. Regardless, it also left the crown to Judea open for grabs. While treason punishable by death to declare a king of Judea without Roman consent, this opportunity would have appealed to the believers in the Davidic line too much to resist. After all, the messiah, according to the prophets Isaiah and Samuel, was to derive from the Davidic line, and be anointed by the Mosaic god. As far as they were concerned, the time had come for prophecy to be fulfilled.
They may have considered Joseph, Jesus's father, or stepfather according to the Gospels, before Jesus was an adult, being a descendant of Solomon. However, also being a descendant of Jehoiachin, a former cursed and dethroned king of Israel, according to the Bible, Joseph would've been restricted from being king. Jesus's mother Mary, however, also came for the Davidic bloodline. Thus Jesus was still a candidate, assuming he could demonstrate Joseph was merely his stepfather, to get around the Jehoiachin curse from his father's bloodline. The only other requirement to be king of Israel was to have been anointed by the Mosaic god, typically through a prophet. Christ presumably had been, according to the Gospels, during his baptism on the Jordan River through John the Baptist. Why else would this meeting with John the Baptist be so important, as all four canonical Gospels make it out to be? While the Gospel John was the only one the didn't refer to it as a baptism, all four Gospels indicate that the baptism, or meeting with John the Baptist at the Jordan River in the Gospel John, marked the beginning of Jesus's career. If Christ really was the son of a god a baptism shouldn't even have been necessary to begin his influence on the world. An anointment as king, on the other hand, was required pursuant to Jewish tradition. Even a son of a god would have had to have gone through with it.
The only obstacle in convincing John to anoint him king was the above referenced curse, but a voice from the heavens telling John this is the son of his god, as the Gospels proposed happened, would've resolved this issue beautifully. Thus, having been anointed king, according to the Gospels, with their god's approval, and the proper blood lineage, I believe Jesus at this point became the leader of Judea. Members of the subsequent Jewish religion believed he should've been anointed in oil instead of water. This, along with a couple other small technicalities they say prevented the possibility that he was the true messiah. I take no sides in this debate, other than to say there were many people of Judea who believed he was the messiah, and had satisfied the requirements for being king. That's all that matters for purposes of this article. Whether or not this was how the baptism actually went was difficult to confirm thereafter, as the Gospels indicate John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded under Herod Antipas shortly after this alleged anointment. Notwithstanding this awful alleged event involving the Baptist, Jesus's followers believed he'd been anointed as their king. As far as his supporters were concerned he was not only their king, and the messiah, but he would unify Judea, and free the Jews from the grips of Rome, as Moses had from Egypt. A deliverer from evil, evil meaning Rome.
According to all four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem shortly before he was executed with large crowds of Jews rejoicing his presence. According to the Gospels Mark and Matthew, the crowd referred to him as the son of David, and stated that he would bring back the kingdom of David. They also chanted hosanna in the highest, hosanna meaning "save us." This joyful entry into Jerusalem indicates the crowds' belief that Christ was going to be, or perhaps already was the king of Judea. It also indicates that Christ had gladly excepted, and was enjoying the job to being their soon to be, or current king.
What did they mean by "save us?" With the political climate in Judea at that time I would presume they were referring to Rome, and the covenant with David in Samuel 7, in which the Mosaic god proclaimed that he would free Israel from the grips of all bad enemies. Some may argue the crowds rejoiced him on account of spreading word of the alleged miracles he was performing. Alleged miracles, however, were not so uncommon in those days. It was more likely people with authority could perform miracles, which supports the notion that Christ had been elevated to a royal status. Emperor Vespasian, for example, who ruled over Rome from 69 to 79 AD, the timeframe during which the majority of scholars believe the Gospels began being written, was said to have cured the blind and healed people from diseases, much like Christ was said to have done in the Gospels. There was also the philosophy Christ was allegedly spreading in his speeches. Would the crowds so gladly have greeted a man for saying things like love thy enemy, and turn the other cheek, the descendants of the same people who so rejoiced when Moses conquered the Egyptians? Doubtful at a time like that. A man preaching about love, and forgiveness would not have received too many followers with the tension between Judea and Rome at that time.
That type of Jesus wasn't written about until after the first Jewish Revolt, which ended in 70 AD with the Romans crushing Jerusalem, and burning the Jews' beloved temple to ash. Knowing they couldn't defeat the enemy at that time, the Jews had to appeal to them through propaganda, and justify their defeat with notions that the defeated are actually better than the victors, (he who is last is first), which they accomplished in writings we now call the Gospels. Little was said in the Gospels about Christ becoming the king of Judea, including his presumed anointment from John the Baptist, likely out of fear of being arrested for treason. To say that Christ was both living, and king of Israel after the end of the first Jewish Revolt, which as stated above ended in disaster for the Jews, would likely have been suicide. The Gospel writers, at that particular time in history, which is when most scholars believe the Gospels began being written, obviously had to be very cautious over what they said. Had it not been for this cautiousness, amongst other things, John the Baptist may have been known instead as John the Anointer.
But what about during Jesus's time? Who was he then? While a great man I don't dispute, Jesus was more likely a rebel to the Roman empire. It's the only way he would've received so many followers at that time, given their apparent belief in his rightful heir to the empty throne. Rather than a humble preacher, the picture the Gospels seem to generally have painted of who he was, I would envision him more as somewhat of a prince charming. A warrior, leader, and general, with sword at his side. Much like Alexander the Great, a warrior king who fought the enemy, and believed himself to be the son of a god, the Greek god Zeus, in a Greek culture that ruled and inspired Judea not long before the Maccabees brought independence to Israel. Christ, I imagine, was a king and warrior also. He would've known becoming the king of Judea would've provoked a fight with Rome, yet he was apparently okay with this inevitability. While the warrior part is still nonetheless speculative, I strongly believe it based on the described circumstances at that time. The king part, however, certainly is not. And this is what likely got him executed. There's plenty of Biblical passages to suggest the words "king of the Jews" were written on the cross on which he was crucified. Not son of god, but king of the Jews.
What a truly horrible moment this would have been for his followers. Their king had been executed in the most shameful and horrifying of ways. And furthermore, the Davidic line, from which the prophets had predicted the messiah, had ended, never to be resumed for all eternity. This would've contradicted 2 Samuel 7-16, which stated that the kingdom of David would last forever. The Jews had to have wondered how their god could've been wrong with this promise to David. They also probably thought Jesus had died because of their own rebellious nature against Rome, in rising him up as their king and messiah without Roman consent, which easily could be translated as he died on account of their sins. Regardless of what they thought, this would have been too much of a pill for them to swallow. Something this big they couldn't have lived with. Resurrection was absolutely essential to fulfill the scriptures and keep the Davidic line alive, as well as for revenge against the Romans, who executed Christ to show the Jews whose control they were truly under.
The Jews would not have settled for that, and the resurrection story suggests they plotted their revenge wisely. Saying Jesus rose from the dead, the man the Romans executed to prove that they ruled over Judea, would've been a huge blow to the Romans. First century Roman senator and historian Tacitus, who wrote about the crucification of Christ, referred to it as "the most mischievous superstition." Also, the most feared symbol, the cross, used on only the greatest enemies of the state of Rome, was now being glorified. Nothing would've infuriated Rome more. I submit Christianity began as a group of rebels out for revenge against Rome, and to keep the hope of a messiah alive. Part of it meant that Christ had to rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus as a god also ensured the alleged divine promise made in 2 Samuel 7-16 would be fulfilled. Christ, as an immortal, would thereafter reign forever.
It didn't matter whether or not they could prove it was true that Christ had risen. What mattered was that they believed it. Much like many people believe souls leave human bodies after they die to be in a better place for all eternity. Believing that their god wouldn't have allowed the death of Christ, lest the scriptures went unfulfilled, was enough to ensure the victory was theirs. Saying that they'd seen him after the resurrection would only have lifted his many followers' spirits even more. Although we're not sure what the creed Saint Paul was apparently quoting from in the above referenced passage from I Corinthians actually said, as it was put into Paul's own words in the passage, assuming it did actually say that people saw Christ after he allegedly resurrected from the dead, I would say it was more likely intended for the Romans. Paul, as a former Roman, could've had access to such a creed through his citizenship with Rome, as it's believed to have been written while he was still a Christian persecuter. It's likely a big reason why he was off capturing Christians in the first place. Such a creed would've constituted somewhat of a declaration of independence by Judea. Paul therefore wouldn't have written about it in the manner he did in I Corinthians until much later, after the Christian movement had grown large enough to offer him some protection from the Romans.
Sending such a message to the Romans would have indicated to their enemy that they hadn't beat them by crucifying Jesus, and Jesus actually was the true ruler of Judea, as he wasn't really dead. Protected by his alleged ascension into heaven the Romans couldn't stop him anymore either. However, Jesus being in a different world may not have intimidated the Romans too much. The threat of him returning, however, would've put the icing on the cake. Hence the second coming prediction would have emerged, which the general population of Jewish believers at that time reportedly thought would happen during their lifetimes. Whether or not the instigators of these notions actually believed all this is irrelevant. If I had to guess I would speculate they would've wanted it to be true so badly they would've convinced themselves it was true, although I think the alleged Christ sightings more likely started out at least as a political expression. It was more important at that time that they got Rome to believe it. Saying they had 500 witnesses to Christ after he allegedly rose from the dead could've accomplished that job. Not only would this make sense, it would explain why Christ, if he really was a god who had risen from the dead, would give evidence of his existence to just 500 people, and leave everyone else on the planet then, and for all future generations to have to take it on faith, (although roughly seventy percent of the world currently does not). Saying that their king by right had risen from the dead and was someplace where the Romans couldn't capture him or confirm what they were saying for the time being would have put the Romans authority over them in jeopardy. Had this been the case it would be little wonder why records indicate the Romans were so eager to capture Christians at this time, shortly after Christ was crucified. Would they be so eager to arrest and execute members of an organization that believed they should love thy enemy. Highly unlikely.
So what about Christ's body? How could the Romans have lost track of it? The best scenario for this would be what's written in all four Gospels. Pontius Pilate released Christ's body to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy follower of Christ. Only the Gospel Matthew claimed that Pilate thereafter sent guards to watch over the body, at the high priest's requests, given the alleged prophecy that Christ would rise on the third day. Matthew's story, however, doesn't sound realistic, as in chapter 28 he claimed the guards witnessed Christ resurrected from the dead, and then took a bribe from the high priests to claim they'd fallen asleep, and Christ's body was stolen by his disciples, as the high priests wished to prevent the risen Christ from being glorified. This sounds unreal, as not only would the guards have been keeping an eye witness account of a human resurrection from the dead a secret, it was punishable by death for a guard to fall asleep on duty in Rome in those days.
The story of Joseph of Arimathea doesn't sound very realistic either, however, considering he apparently was not a family member of Christ's, and convicted Jews were typically left on crosses to rot, and be devoured by animals, their bones later disposed of at Golgotha, otherwise known as the place of the skull. Assuming Matthew's story was an apologetic legend, as most scholars think, either of the other two scenarios would result in the Romans losing track of Christ's body. If the Joseph of Arimathea story was fabricated as a way of suggesting Christ's body was preserved, and removed from the cross before the Sabbath Day, as would've been extremely important to his followers, it's still fair to say if a body that's been flogged at the pillars, crowned with thorns, nailed to wood, and pierced through the side with a sword could resurrect, as the four canonical Gospels taken as a whole would suggest, a body that's been reduced to bones could as well. In either case you would certainly think he'd have to be at least somewhat restored to his former self for the sake of appearances. Although the Gospel John did talk about nail marks in Christ's hands and a sword mark in his side following the alleged resurrection, the flogging Pilate ordered, as was custom before any crucifixion, would have left very little skin on his back as well.
Did he really rise from the dead? I'd hate to debunk such a joyful thing to believe in, so I'll leave that up to the readers to believe or to not believe in. Personally I think that would be a wonderful notion to believe in, but as a more realistic thinker, it's not something I can easily accept as truth. As earlier stated, with the grim evidence available for such a notion, it's something one really can only accept through faith, although a few scholars would disagree. Regardless, it was a notion that was far more believable in Christ's days. This was a time when there was no television, internet, newspapers, or internal combustion engines. The Earth was the center of the universe, around which everything revolved, and the stars were peaks of heaven through the great dome surrounding the Earth. It was much easier to believe in gods and magic in those days, and far easier to sell fiction to people. Christ wasn't the first person to allegedly resurrect from the dead, nor was he the first to allegedly perform a resurrection. To name a few others, Elisha and Elijah from the books of Kings both performed resurrections, just to name a couple off the top of my head. And while much skepticism has been expressed over the Gospel Matthew's tale of high priests expecting Christ to resurrect from the dead, fact or fiction, it was written as if rising from the dead was not such a shocking and crazy thing to believe in back then, as we know it would be today.
I believe Christ was, however, a very important human being. The answer to many Jews' prayers. I think his death was one of the most significant events in the history of Western Civilization, and his legacy fully justified. It was a truly sad moment in history. The death of a messiah.
lukemike92 (author) on October 14, 2021:
I assume you mean you believe the Bible wasn't really written by humans, but by the hand of the Hebrew god himself, as I can't imagine you're implying you believe anything you read, regardless of how ridiculous and irrational it might be, (as we know a lot of things written in the Bible to be). Thus, if a god wrote it it can't be denied. Of course. And what a thoughtful god that would have to be to give a book filled with contradictions to us to try make sense out of while he sits up in paradise playing solitaire and ignoring us for millennia. Hey but we got that book though. Yep. I suppose you're probably gonna tell me he hasn't abandoned us. He's still here. Right. If that were true, tell me, what else has been written by his own finger in the last 2,000 years. Then you're gonna tell me his presence hasn't been needed. Of course all the wars, violence, and bloodshed over the last two millennia couldn't have used a divine helping hand. And then you'll say the lord works in mysterious ways, which is just another way of saying you have no way to prove he exists, and no way to reasonably justify his existence either. This may sound a bit harsh but don't comment on a post like this unless you really have something to debate. You're obviously a faith person, which is fine, as long as you understand that faith and reason don't mix. Save your faith for your religious talks, gambling, and sports. I'm sure you're gonna win the power ball and all the teams you pull for will win the championships this year. Faith will never let you down. Mmm hmm.
KC McGee from Where I belong on October 13, 2021:
If the bible says it, that settles it.