Miss, a Word in your Ear 34

Caravaggio: The Annunciation ( Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy: Public Domain) Caravaggio was a master of the chiaroscuro technique: using darkness to illuminate

 

The divinity of Christ divided Christians from the earliest days. The fallout lasted over 500 years. Christians wondered if Jesus was God or merely similar to God? Was he both God and Man?

It seems trivial to us, but to them it was paramount. If Jesus was God, he did not suffer on the cross and his sacrifice to redeem our sins meant nothing. To suffer he had to be a man. Eventually they decided he had two separate natures; making him both God and man. Unfortunately this solution caused more problems than it solved.

An early gospel ascribed to St Peter only survived in quotes until a fragment about the crucifixion and resurrection was dug up in Egypt in the last century. It may be the earliest written account of the crucifixion: the one all others are based on.

In it Jesus feels no pain and does not die on the cross because he is God. His mortal body is only an illusion. Other gnostic gospels say much the same. Some even claim someone was substituted for Jesus on the cross. Although it might seem like heresy, such traditions are very early.

The idea Jesus did not suffer on the cross is echoed in the gospels of John and Luke. Some scholars refer to his ‘passionless passion’, and claim the passage in Luke where Jesus sweated tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, was put in by a later scribe to make him seem more human.

To discover how these beliefs originated, we need to look at the first century after the crucifixion, when a theological framework was being put in place around the recollected words, deeds, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The gospels call Jesus ‘the Son of God’. The term was understood in two very different ways by the Jews and the gentile Christians. It is not the only example in the gospels of how things got confused as Christianity took root in a pagan Roman world ignorant of Jewish tradition.

The Jews believed just or pious men, and the Kings of Israel, were ‘Sons of God’. In the gospels, Jesus is referred to the King of the Jews. The radical theologian Barbara Theiring believes he was exactly that: the legitimate heir to the Jewish throne. Unfortunately, going into details of her claims would only bog us down.

The pagans believed Zeus physically sired sons on mortal women. They were the Greek heroes, Heracles, Perseus, the twins Castor and Pollux, and Dionysus, the god of wine. It was nothing for them to believe God had physical sons, but it was blasphemy to the Jews.

In the gospels, Jesus’ Virgin Birth is described almost word for word from a prophecy by Isiah. The word Isiah uses for virgin only means ‘unwed woman’. This led critics like Celsus (in 177AD) to claim Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Pantera, which infuriated early Christians. The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity also comes from the gnostic gospels; despite the official gospels mentioning Jesus’ four brothers and two of his sisters.

Neither was Jesus’ father, Joseph, a carpenter. A. N. Wilson’s biography of Jesus says the word meant scholar as well as craftsman. It makes more sense for Jesus ‘the carpenter’ to have originally been ‘the Scholar’, especially as he is called Rabbi (teacher).

The Jewish historian Joesphus writing shortly after Jesus does not mention Nazareth in his list of Galilean towns. It is first mentioned in 200AD.  Neither does he mention the Slaughter of the Innocents by King Herod.

The term translated as ‘Nazarene’ might be confused with the Jewish word Nazarite which was someone consecrated to God from birth, such as John the Baptist. No one but Jesus is called ‘Nazarene’ in the gospels. Early Christians said Jesus’ brother James the Just was a Nazarite, and some modern scholars claim St Paul took Nazarite vows.

Epiphanius (360AD) said the Nazareans were a group existing before Christ, who did not know Christ. They were one of many Jewish groups believing God would send a King (Messiah) to free Israel from Roman occupation.

Given these were all misunderstandings as the faith moved into the Roman world, how did people view Jesus as God, or at least the Son of God?

The Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit grew up during the first centuries as Christian theologians tried to incorporate Greek Philosophy and terms used by the Apostles from the Old Testament into the increasingly complex framework they were constructing around the life of Jesus.

Two terms from the Gospels, the Word and the Holy Spirit, have a long history in Jewish thought. They are in Psalms of David.

‘By the word (logos) of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath (pneuma) of his mouth’

The ‘Word’ was ‘God’s Reason’; existing from the beginning of time. It came down to earth to occupy the body of Jesus the Man. As stated in John’s Gospel…

In the beginning was the Word

And the Word was with God

And the Word was God…

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

In Greek the Holy Spirit is Hagia Pneuma. Hagia, or Holy, means Perfect. If someone was holy they were filled with perfection (God). Pneuma means breath. The Holy Spirit is literally God’s prefect breath.

Ancient peoples believed the breath held the soul. The Greek and Roman world, which pretty well tolerated anything, was horrified by the idea of oral sex. It profaned the mouth, from where Words, the outpouring of Reason, came. Words and Reason separated us from the animals and make us like gods.

The Jews believed God made Adam a Golem, a soulless, dead clay thing. Adam only got a soul when God breathed life into him. This is what the phrase ‘God made man in his image’ means. When Jesus was filled with the spirit (breath) of God, he became a Prophet (someone who speaks the words of God), because his words were carried on the breath God gave him.

There are three theories found in the Gospels about how Jesus became divine.

Probably the earliest has the Holy Spirit filling Jesus when God brings him back from the dead after the crucifixion by breathing life into him.

In John’s Gospel Mary Magdelene is weeping by Christ’ empty tomb in the Garden. When Jesus asks why she is weeping, Mary does not recognise him. She thinks he is ‘the gardener’. All Jews understood Adam was the gardener of the Garden of Eden. Jesus is the ‘new Adam.’

The other popular theory has Jesus made divine during his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descends in the shape of a dove.

In the last scenario, the ‘Holy Spirit’ took root in his mother’s womb. When this became church dogma it made Jesus the Son of God in the same way Greek heroes were the sons of Zeus.

Zeus took different shapes to father his children. He impregnated Leda in the shape of a swan, and Perseus’ mum Danaë as a shower of gold. God did nothing so clumsy.

God breathed the ‘Word’ to the Angel Gabriel, who carried the ‘Word of God’ to the Virgin Mary and whispered in her ear. The church declared the Virgin Mary was impregnated through her ear. Although probably a lot older, St Ephram first wrote down the idea in around 350AD: ‘through her ear the Word entered and dwelt secretly in her womb.’

So with it being Christmas and all, and you probably having one or two more white wines than are good for you at the old office party, I would suggest you be extremely cautious when a tall handsome stranger wants to whisper in your ear… even if he doesn’t have a pair of thumping great wings sicking out of the back of his figure-hugging tee-shirt.

34 thoughts on “Miss, a Word in your Ear

  1. Reply Janet Gogerty Jan 3,2018 4:54 pm

    I book marked this to read again properly. So interesting; the mind set of the Romans and of course our various British ancestors, must have been so different to that of the Jewish people. It is fascinating that stories from so long ago last in any form and who can claim for sure to know the real events. But what remains is the fact that of the many many people who have died violently in the middle east over the centuries and of course recently, Jesus Christ remains one of the few names remembered.

  2. Reply John Fioravanti Dec 18,2017 7:01 pm

    Great post, Paul. I too was raised Catholic and understand the demand for blind faith – which I reject. Of course, I reject all religions on principle, while I respect the right of people to believe what they will and worship accordingly. As a student of history, not familiar with the ancient languages and cultures of Biblical times, it is easy to see how there have been misunderstandings down through the ages. I think the Jews got it right that Jesus was a great prophet who got caught in the political crosshairs of the Jewish leaders and their Roman governors. This is a very enjoyable read!

    • Reply Paul Dec 19,2017 5:31 pm

      Thanks John, We have a lot in common I was raised Catholic too and also reject all religions (while also believing there as to be more in this universe than just us… and that someone is taking an interest in us). I am so flattered you found this an enjoyable read. All my very best to you and have a great Christmas. Paul

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  4. Reply Teagan R Geneviene Dec 16,2017 8:32 pm

    I got a kick out of the way you ended this, Paul. Tall handsome strangers always warrant caution! 😀

    • Reply Paul Dec 17,2017 12:09 am

      Thank you Teagan, although to be fair if all a tall handsome stranger with a twelve foot pair of wings did was whisper in your ear, then it wouldn’t be much of a Christmas!!! Px

  5. Reply Shehanne Moore Dec 16,2017 1:01 pm

    Paul, a brilliant post. And you are so right about blind faith. You will see from that where I stand on these matters. The indoctrination just gobsmacks me.

    • Reply Paul Dec 17,2017 12:16 am

      Thanks Shey. It is amazing how things that seemed quite logical a couple of thousand years ago.. when their concepts of reproductive biology were rudimentary to say the least are Now Viewed as Articles of Faith because we know better. Like you I just want people to think for themselves and realise that God and organised religions are barely on speaking terms… You don’t have to sign up to burning witches and heretics to make God like you. SHE doesn’t care! Only religions do! Love PX

  6. Reply Denzil Dec 15,2017 4:25 pm

    Thanks Paul for this fascinating and wide-ranging post. Coincidentally I have just reviewed two books covering some of the same ground: A Complicated Pregnancy (some thoughts on the Virgin Birth) and The Christian Fallacy (Jesus of Nazareth was a figment of the imagination of the Gospel writers). Mind you, I have to say that neither of them dealt with aural impregnation!

    • Reply Paul Dec 17,2017 1:05 am

      Denzil thank you for your comment mate. I have read the articles. And so what I really want to thank you for is pointing me to you blog. It’s very enjoyable. You know what it’s like probably we spend more time writing than reading but I will keep abreast of you thoughts. All my warmest regards Paul

  7. Reply dgkaye Dec 14,2017 12:54 am

    Fascinating findings here Paul. This is the problem with history – it gets rewritten by those who write what they’d like to believe, or through the passing years variations get contorted to what suits a particular demonination of religion. Kind of takes the magic out of our beliefs. I suppose we’ll all have our own beliefs and variations of what we choose to believe, but I did love the last sentence, LOL. 🙂 Happy holidays! 🙂 xx

    • Reply Paul Dec 17,2017 1:08 am

      You know Debby you hit the nail right on the head about things getting contorted and rewritten. And it does take the magic our our our beliefs.. but you know what maybe it doesn’t! Maybe it only takes the magic out of what other people tell us we must believe, leaving our imaginations free to form our own opinions. I hope so. Love Paul X

  8. Reply Tina Frisco Dec 13,2017 11:51 pm

    I was raised Catholic and indoctrinated from an early age. I even joined the convent at one point, but was kicked out after one month for singing in the shower 🙂 The controversy over Jesus’ divinity is fascinating. Blind faith leaves no room for doubt, while science questions everything. The most interesting aspect of this is how Aramaic and Hebrew words might have been erroneously translated. Believers profess the Christian Bible is to be taken literally, many (if not most) of whom are ignorant of its origins. (At times I can barely remember why I stood up, much less give an accurate and detailed account 40 years later.) Add to this that the Bible was created to promote a political agenda, and the arguments for and against Jesus’ divinity appear ill-founded. Faith vs. fact. A direct line to the Akashic Records would be most helpful 🙂 Fascinating post, Paul ❤

    • Reply Paul Dec 14,2017 12:19 am

      Tina I was brought up a Catholic too. And you are right, there is too much blind faith and not just in Christianity but in every religion. And the aim of religion i for those in pwewith power to control those without. I have just looked up the Akashic Records and it would be wonderful to access something like that to see for yourself what actually went on.
      If the origins of Christianity are like the origins of so many other myths I really wonder if we would actually see it as a whole and every step along the way?
      It’s like as you say, you could give a damn good explanation of JFK’s assassination what lead up to it and its aftermath. But how accurate would it really be. Then someone reads your story and 20 years later recounts what they remember from what you wrote and I wrote about it. And it gets changed again. It’s like what happened to King Arthur. It’s like the days before we had the internet, and imagine the days before libraries when books were hand written and if you wanted a copy you had to pay to have it written out long hand. We definitely need the Akashic Records if we ever want to make sense out of anything! Love PXX

  9. Reply Robbie Cheadle Dec 13,2017 6:12 pm

    Another fascinating post, Paul. Gregory will find this very interesting. He told me the other day that he no longer believes in religion; he now believes in science. I told he that we educated him in both areas so that he could make his own choice in due course.

    • Reply Paul Dec 13,2017 11:50 pm

      You know what Robbie I think Gregory is probably going the right way. People often confuse religion with spirituality. Spirituality is all about growth: religion all about control. Given what religions have done over the millennia I think God probably hangs his head when those claiming to represent him drag him into their shameful polemics. And as for slaughtering other people in his name.. how can they really think he is going to want their sort in heaven! Love Px

  10. Reply susan scott Dec 13,2017 10:29 am

    Thanks Paul, such a complex story always such an interesting one ..

    All good wishes for Christmas. Susan

    • Reply Paul Dec 13,2017 11:53 pm

      Dear Susan thanks for your comment. you are spot on it is a very complex story open to many interpretations. Have a lovely Christmas yourself and all my best wishes for the coming year. Px

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  12. Reply D. Wallace Peach Dec 12,2017 6:25 pm

    Wow. So convoluted and magical, Paul. The stories remind me of myths and folk legends, particularly from the Romans and Celts. And so many stories seem to have been interpreted by groups of men with their own agendas. Fascinating post! Happy Holidays. 🙂

    • Reply Paul Dec 13,2017 11:35 pm

      Thanks Diana. There is a whole school that thinks all of the Christ story was based on other myths, while a lot of the new testament is cobbled together from Old Testament Quotes from the prophets describing Messiah like figures. There is so much scholarship over the historicity of Christ because We are still in A Christian paradigm. I have recently been thinking if Christianity had not been the religion of the west for almost 2000 years we would be dismissing these stories in much the same way as we dismiss the historical explanations of Roman and Celtic myth. PX

  13. Reply Chuck Jackson Dec 12,2017 3:47 pm

    Beautiful piece, thank your sharing.

  14. Reply Brigid Gallagher Dec 12,2017 2:21 pm

    I wondered where you got such a title from Paul! Now I know. I will watch out over Christmas. No party invites yet…

    • Reply Paul Dec 14,2017 12:04 am

      Dear Brigid, I am glad the title tickled your imagination. With regards to no Christmas parties, it might be a lucky escape… lest you ‘entertaine angels unawares!’ Probably could do without that in 2018! Love Px

  15. Reply sally cronin Dec 12,2017 10:19 am

    Brilliant of course Paul and loved the breakdown of the various references to Nazarene, and the immaculate conception.. I have reblogged for tomorrow morning.. and shared around.. I hope many come to read it.. hugs Sally XX

    • Reply Paul Dec 14,2017 12:01 am

      Dear Sally the Nararene part is fascinating isn’t it, I will go into the Nazarite lore at a later date but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are some fantastic historical characters associated with the period and somethings that have been dismissed as fantasy by the Church because it did not fit in with the myth they were developing may well be true such as the letters between St Paul and Seneca – the Emperor Nero’s tutor… There are very interesting stories which puts the origins of Christianity strongly into the historical continuum- where as the church prefers to have it exist outside historical facts. Love PX

  16. Reply K. D. Dowdall Dec 12,2017 2:26 am

    Paul, this is so interesting and confusing, and fascinating. A great post. Thank you! Karen

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