Mark's version of "Jesus"
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31-07-2015, 10:05 PM (This post was last modified: 01-08-2015 06:08 PM by Mark Fulton.)
Mark's version of "Jesus"
Hi everyone. I've decided to share the second chapter of my book with anyone who's interested. The ideas here are the culmination of thousands of hours of research. I hope you enjoy it. You may not agree with everything I write, but I'm sure there's something in here for everyone...

This spiel sets out to place Yeshua (Jesus) in the historical context in which he is said to have existed, and tells a more truthful tale of his life than the traditional one taught in church.

Throughout this post the name “Yeshua” is used when referring to the genuine historical figure, as it may have been the Hebrew name for Jesus and “Jesus” when referring to the figure in the Gospels.

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Did Yeshua Exist?

The Gospels’ writers and editors were mythmakers. Many historians suspect they did not base their writings on a genuine historical character, and they may be right. No definitive contemporary archaeological evidence has ever been found for Yeshua’s existence, despite many wordy claims, lacking in facts, to the contrary.

Do contemporary historians mention Yeshua?

Flavius Josephus, (37–100 CE) ( ) a prolific and comprehensive Jewish historian, who would frequently write a few pages on the execution of common Jewish thieves, has not one authentic line that mentions Yeshua. “He” does mention “Christ” on two occasions, yet both have been convincingly exposed as interpolations, although not all scholars accept this. So if Yeshua existed, either Josephus chose not to write about him, or early Christians destroyed his record because it did not fit with their manufactured image.

Justus of Tiberias (35–100 CE) was a first-century Jewish author born in Galilee. Although he wrote extensively about contemporary Jewish history, he too never mentioned Jesus.

Philo-Judaeus, (15-10 BCE - 45-50 CE) a prolific writer and historian, was an Alexandrian Jew who visited Jerusalem in the years Jesus was allegedly teaching and working miracles. He too failed to mention Jesus.

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A historian might expect Jewish religious officials to have said a significant amount about Jesus, but they did not. The earliest references to him in Judaic rabbinical literature did not occur before the third century CE and bear little relation to the Jesus of the Gospels.

What about the Roman writers of the first century? There are no Roman records of Pilate’s or Herod’s dealings with Jesus. The Roman world left behind senate records and volumes of other writings, which provide historians with a large amount of data, yet, it seems, nothing about Jesus. Edward Gibbon, who wrote in the latter half of the eighteenth century in his classic work Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated:

“How shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to those evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodi- gies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled, and the laws of nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the Church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.”

Gibbon devoted twenty or so years of his life to his seventeen-volume work. It is the result of exhaustive research, so his comments can be trusted as authoritative.

Saint Paul, who probably appeared on the historical scene only fifteen years after Yeshua’s death, does repeatedly commend his Christ in his letters, although some scholars suspect that he refers to a different character and not to Yeshua. If this is so, his references to “Jesus” may be interpolations. Whether or not Paul’s Christ was Yeshua, his writings are remarkably deficient in facts about Jesus.

Pliny the Younger did mention the existence of Christians in Asia Minor in 112 CE, but wrote nothing about Jesus the person.

It is said that in 115 CE, the Roman historian Tacitus made the first mention of Jesus. However, this reference is not mentioned by any of the Church Fathers, (eminent priests and theologians of early Christianity) and is considered by many historians to be a forgery. Despite this, “Tacitus’” note on Jesus is frequently referred to in pro-Christian literature.

The surprising truth is that no contemporary literate official, scribe, merchant, soldier or priest documented details about Jesus that have survived. If Jesus had preached to thousands, cured cripples, expelled demons, and risen from the dead, surely someone would have jotted down some notes about him, but it appears that they did not.

Despite the dearth of reputable evidence, I think a man named Yeshua probably did exist, and that parts of the Gospel plots are loosely based on his life. My reasoning is as follows.

There is non-Biblical evidence for the existence of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, and for James, Jesus’ brother. John and James were leaders of a Jewish sect, the Nazarenes, (discussed soon) and many scholars claim Yeshua was their boss between these two, an idea that fits with what is known about Yeshua.

The Nazarenes, who soldiered on for a few centuries after Jesus’ death, and there is evidence from the Church Fathers’ writings that they believed Yeshua had existed.

Paul, the creator of Christian theology, claimed he met James and Peter, who may have been Yeshua’s brother and disciple respectively. Paul mentioned them on a few occasions, and these references are unlikely to be a Christian interpolation, as Paul did not write about James and Peter with much respect.

Once Yeshua’s existence is assumed, anyone who writes about him must comb through the Gospels to get specifics about his life. This is unfortunate, because the Gospels are unreliable records; yet turning to the Gospels is unavoidable because details about him are lacking in other literature. There are good reasons to assume that some parts of the Gospels fit with a realistic story about him.

Yeshua’s Infancy

Matthew’s Gospel states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small town in southern Judea, just outside Jerusalem - yet each of the Gospels claim he grew up in Galilee, which was a three-day walk from Bethlehem. Why the different locations?

Matthew’s was the first Gospel to give Jesus a birth story, and Matthew was trying to make his Gospel seem to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy. Micah 5:2, from the Old Testament, reads:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

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(NIV.) “Bethlehem Ephrathah” clearly referred to a clan of people. Matthew changed this reference to a clan into a tale about a town.

Matthew wrote:

“And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:6, NJB.)

This throws serious doubt on the Bethlehem birth scenario.

The year of Yeshua’s birth is uncertain. Matthew made out that he was born in King Herod the Great’s time (who died in 4 BCE.) Yet Luke alleged that Jesus was born at the time of a census:

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1–7, KJV.)

The date of the only known contemporary census was c. 6–7 CE, and to hold a census was hardly a common occurrence. That makes the date of Jesus’ birth about 10 years later than Herod the Great’s death. A ten-year difference (between Matthew and Luke) is a serious discrepancy. One or both of the authors were mistaken, or were fabricating, as the two tales are irreconcilable.

The Gospels do agree that Jesus’ mother’s name was Mary. She was just a girl, very likely only fourteen to seventeen years old, as Jewish girls were nearly always married at this age. She was probably from Galilee, in northern Judea, and Jesus was her first child. Mary was betrothed to a Jewish man, named Joseph, and they had a problem. Mary was pregnant and the couple was not yet married.

Neither Matthew nor Luke judged Joseph to be Jesus’ biological father, as they made out Mary was impregnated by a “Holy Ghost.” The other two Gospel authors did not discuss who Jesus’ father was, a remarkable omission if Mary had admitted a ghost did the deed, which she must have done, if Mark and John were not making up the story. (Just who else may have been Yeshua’s real father is discussed shortly).

According to Luke, Mary moved from her hometown for three months to be with her relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah. This could have been to evade the embarrassment and danger of being discovered pregnant out of wedlock. (It was against the Jewish law.)

Matthew’s Gospel claims Elizabeth was pregnant too, soon to give birth to John, Jesus’ cousin.

After Jesus’ birth, Matthew wrote that Mary, Joseph and the child fled to Egypt to avoid a paranoid King Herod.

“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matt. 2:13–15, KJV.)

Matthew was trying to “fit” his infancy narrative about Jesus into an Old Testament verse from Hosea that stated,

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1, NJB.)

Hosea was not making a prophecy or prediction; he was referring to the Jewish people (Israel) having left Egypt some centuries beforehand. Matthew was trying to fit Jesus into a non-existent prophecy from Hosea.

Matthew then told of Herod’s murder of innocent children:

“Herod was furious when he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more” (Matt. 2:16–18, NJB.)

Yet Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, was clearly (in his writing) referring to the sixth century BCE Babylonian captivity, so Jeremiah was discussing an event that had already occurred (the kidnap of Rachel’s children by the Babylonians):

“Thus speaks Yahweh: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: It is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” (Jer. 31:15, NJB.)

There is no secular record of Herod slaughtering Jewish children. Herod’s primary role under the Romans was to keep the peace in Judea, not wreak havoc.

Matthew was, once again, trying to make baby Jesus fulfill another non-existent prophecy. Matthew was also trying to impress Jewish readers by giving Jesus an infancy story similar to that of Moses.

Yeshua’s Early Life

Matthew wrote that the family then turned to Galilee, and dwelt “in a city called Nazareth.” Luke wrote that after Jesus’ birth, the baby was taken to Jerusalem, and presented in the temple, and then they returned to Galilee, to “their own city Nazareth.”

There is little evidence to support the Nazareth part of the story. Did Nazareth exist in the first century? Today’s Nazareth was probably only first named as such in the third or fourth century. Richard Carrier, a well respected scholar, disagrees in the sense that he thinks Nazareth may have existed in the first century, but he does not think Jesus, if he existed, grew up there. There is a paucity of good archaeological evidence that the place was a town before that period.

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So Yeshua may have grown up in one of many small Jewish villages that dotted the countryside in Galilee, but it almost certainly was not today’s Nazareth.

Agriculture, building and fishing on the Sea of Galilee were the main industries of note. Ninety percent of Galilean Jews lived a subsistence existence, working as peasant farmers, producing just enough food to feed their families. These peasants may have also supplemented their income by working as laborers when cities were being built.

Yeshua and his family were probably peasants who lived in houses made of stone, mud, and straw. Any furniture they may have had was very basic. Family groups lived closely huddled together in little villages. They would have had chickens, goats, sheep, and perhaps cattle. Some of the men may have worked as laborers building houses for the richer people. Communal gravesites that date from the era show skeletons with evidence of nutritional deficiencies, and that sixty percent of those buried had died before they reached puberty. Life was obviously a struggle in ancient Galilee.

Yeshua’s Brothers and Sisters

It is clearly documented in the Bible that Yeshua had four brothers and at least two sisters. Mark’s Gospel named the boys:

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3, KJV.)

Matthew wrote the same:

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matt. 13:55–56, KJV.)

These brothers all had very patriotic Jewish names.

Many commentators claim one of Jesus’ sisters was named Salome, (although she was not specifically named as a sister)

“There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome” (Mark 15:40, KJV.)

“And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him” (Mark 16:1, KJV.)

The other sister’s name was not mentioned in the Gospels.

Luke and John also mentioned that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but did not allow them their Jewish names.

Paul, the man accredited with writing nearly one third of the New Testament, wrote of James as the Lord’s brother:

“But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19, KJV.)

The book of Acts stated:

“And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:13–14, KJV.)

It can be argued that all these authors deliberately undermined the importance of Jesus’ siblings by not discussing them in any depth. If that is the case, it is unlikely that the authors fabricated the fact of the siblings’ existence.

One possible reason we do not hear more about Yeshua’s brothers and sisters is that people have been told that Mary was a perpetual (life long) virgin, and perpetual virgins do not have seven children.

One Catholic position is that

“James, Joseph, and Jude are undoubtedly His cousins... But whether they were cousins on their father’s or mother’s side, whether cousins by blood or merely by marriage, cannot be determined with certainty.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The reasoning used to arrive at this “cousin conclusion” is very convoluted, contrived, and relies on reinterpreting some straightforward passages in the Bible. The reader might wonder whether it is logical to claim these three were “undoubtedly” Jesus’ cousins, yet then admit to not knowing how they were related to him?

Elsewhere in the Catholic Encyclopedia it is adamantly asserted that James was Jesus’ brother:

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“Internal evidence (contents of the Epistle, its style, address, date, and place of composition) points unmistakably to James, the Lord’s brother, the Bishop of Jerusalem, as the author; he exactly, and he alone, fulfills the conditions required in the writer of the Epistle.”

Some Catholic historians have obviously failed to reach a consensus concerning James’ relationship to Jesus.

Yeshua, if he existed, probably had brothers and sisters.

Yeshua and First Century Judaism

Historians know a lot about the political, social and religious climate in Yeshua’s day from sources such as Josephus, Philo and the Dead Sea scrolls. Religion and politics were closely intertwined, because political power was employed using religion. Jewish identity, both nationalistic and religious, was derived from their fanatical belief in their one and only god, who they imagined had an interest in them and actively intervened in their affairs. Their Scripture handed them a history, a set of laws, and a guide to what they could expect in the future. It also propped up the power of priests. Jews were clearly separate from non-Jewish people (Gentiles or “pagans.”) The Jewish population was dispersed throughout all parts of Palestine, whereas Gentiles lived in the larger cities such as Caesaria, Sepphoris, Jerusalem, and Tiberias. Gentiles did not reside in rural villages, so it is likely Yeshua would have had very little contact with Gentiles.

The Gospels portray Jesus as an early-first-century Galilean rustic. Judaism, being the most important aspect of Yeshua’s identity, would have elevated his life above the everyday humdrum struggle for survival. Yeshua would have been circumcised, and proud
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to be David’s descendant. He would have eaten only kosher food, and kept holy the Sabbath, which meant that every Saturday he did not do business. Jews were not permitted to cook, clean, entertain guests, feed animals, hunt, or perform a myriad of other minor chores on the Sabbath. Yeshua would probably have partaken in the Passover celebrations, which meant an annual trip to Jerusalem. He must have imagined the land of Israel was in part his, as Yahweh had given it to the Jewish people. He would have gone to a local synagogue to talk about the Torah and the prophets’ books with his fellow Jews. He could have considered himself one of God’s chosen and superior to Gentiles. Many Jews did not eat with, marry or even mix with pagans if they could avoid it. Yeshua may have told his disciples:

“Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:6, NJB) and

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. 15:24, NJB.)

The first known documents that can be considered “Christian” were Paul’s writings, written at least fifteen plus years after Jesus died, and Paul barely talked about what Jesus said or did. Those documents defined Christian theology, yet Paul’s ideas were unknown to Yeshua.

Many of the basic beliefs of Judaism and Christianity are mutually exclusive.

Christianity was a brand new religion, and it claimed that Yahweh had a son who was his equal. Christian dogma also attempted to undermine the importance of the Jewish Law. It is very hard to imagine that Yeshua, a Jewish Galilean peasant, would try to invent a new doctrine such as Christianity. Yeshua no doubt discussed the substance of Scripture, but would not have reinvented his basic beliefs.

It is highly likely that Yeshua, if he ever existed, was a Jew, not a Christian.

The Political Climate in Palestine

“The Jews discovered a fierce impatience of the dominion of Rome, which repeatedly broke out in the most furious massacres and insurrections...and we are tempted to applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of the legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but of human kind. The enthusiasm of the Jews was supported by the opinion, that it was unlawful for them to pay taxes to an idolatrous master; and by the flattering promise which they derived from their ancient oracles, that a conquering Messiah would soon arise, destined to break their fetters, and to invest the favorites of heaven with the empire of the earth.”
(Edward Gibbon)

In 37 BCE Herod “the Great” laid siege to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish nation, with an army of Roman soldiers, and recaptured it from the Jewish people (the Romans had been in control from 63 BCE to 40 BCE.) It took him three months, and Herod began his long reign as king of Judea. The Romans had a policy of appointing locals as leaders by choosing them from the aristocratic families of the countries they conquered, as this helped police the people. So Israel was very much a part of the Empire, and had been for almost 90 years, by the time Yeshua started preaching. Israel was an important province, particularly as it was en route to Egypt, as Rome was heavily reliant on Egyptian grain.

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Herod wanted the people to respect him as king of the Jews, but he lacked credibility, because he was not a pure Jew, as his father was an Idumean, from an area to the south of Judea, and what is more, he was a Roman puppet. Herod was paranoid about threats to his rule, and thought anyone of the royal Jewish bloodline was a danger. Herod had the last of the genuine Jewish kings, Antigonus, executed. He married a royal Jewish princess to prop up his claim to the crown, but, fretting about a challenge to his position, had her, her brother and his own two sons by the marriage executed. The Roman emperor Augustus had good reason to state:

“I had sooner be Herod’s swine than his son” (Cecil Roth, A Short History of the Jewish People, 92.)

Herod tried to increase his prestige by undertaking massive build- ing projects. He remodeled the temple in Jerusalem, employing ten thousand workers, and spared no expense. It was twice as large as today’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and was truly magnificent to behold, boasting Corinthian columns, white marble, and plates of gold. It was the nucleus of the nation, and became famous throughout the empire, and all Jerusalem lived in its shadow. Herod also constructed the city port of Caesaria, overlooking the Mediterranean. It had an artificial harbor and an amphitheater that held an audience of twenty thousand.

All Herod’s architectural projects were Hellenistic in design, which upset many Jews. The people were also put out when Herod placed a golden eagle, the emblem of Roman rule, over the great gate of the temple. Many common Jews despised Herod. A real king needed to be a true Jew and a descendant of David, not someone smitten with Greek culture who had been installed by Romans.

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Herod was dictatorial and not particularly perturbed about the plight of poor Jewish peasants. It was only by controlling the country as a police state that he averted open rebellion.

Herod Archelaus, one of Herod the Great’s surviving sons, took over as ruler of Galilee, a northern province of Palestine, when his father died in 4 BCE. He was such an inept ruler Caesar replaced him after ten years and his brother, Herod Antipas, became the ruler of the region. This was the man who had John the Baptist beheaded, and who allegedly interrogated Jesus before the crucifixion. Like his father, Herod Antipas was very ambitious. He too married a princess from a royal Jewish bloodline, and continued his father’s grandiose building projects, rebuilding the city of Sepphoris, which was to become the capital of Galilee, eight kilometers from the present day Nazareth. Constructed during Yeshua’s childhood, it is possible Yeshua and his father and brothers worked there as laborers.

The Herods had to get money for these projects, and money was also needed to support the Roman bureaucracy and army. The money came from taxes paid by the already struggling peasants, and was accrued by the infamous tax collectors. There were export and import taxes, taxes levied on crops - one tenth of the grain crop and one fifth of that from wine, fruit, and oil. There were taxes payable on the transfer of property, emergency taxes, and others. So anything from twenty to forty percent of the peasants’ produce went into paying tax. A Roman official called a “censor” was responsible for reaping in the revenue, but he often sold the right to collect it to the highest bidders, men who demanded more money than was due and kept the difference for themselves. The censors commonly took bribes from the rich, so the poor people ended up paying most of the tax, arousing deep resentment.

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The Romans had changed the economic status quo in Palestine. Many of the poorer people had lost land when it was incorporated into large estates of the upper classes. It was obvious to the farmers and fishermen of Galilee that the richer people, many of whom lived in the largest cities, were exploiting them.

The proud Palestinian people were infuriated that Romans appointed the high priest, their chief religious figure. It meant the powerful elite families reinforced Roman rule. A modern analogy would be the Catholic world today having a Pope and his cardinals appointed by an Islamic government, or Cubans choosing an American president.

Galilean peasants started skirmishes in 4 BCE, possibly the year Yeshua was born. Josephus relates that Judas, son of Ezekias, gathered together a band of bandits who broke into the royal armory at Sepphoris, and stole weapons and money. Further south at Jericho, 30 kilometers from Jerusalem, another Jew named Simon led a pack that torched the royal palace. A shepherd named Athronges raised a rabble that roamed the countryside for a few months. Soon most of Galilee was in revolt.

The Roman army responded with brutal force by marching into Galilee, burning towns and villages, and crucifying anyone resisting Roman rule. Three thousand Jews were massacred. There must have been much terror and many innocent people murdered. There is no mention of this violence in the Gospels, yet Mary, Joseph and their families must have been involved, either as participants or observers.

Mary was a young girl vulnerable to rampaging troops. It is possible that Yeshua’s biological father was a Roman soldier.

Ten years later, in 6 CE, the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius, undertook a census to work out who should be paying taxes to Rome. This sparked another revolt led by a Galilean, also named Judas, who many imagined was the messiah. Josephus told the story:

“There was one Judas, a Galilean, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Zadok, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt. Both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such councils as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially, if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same. So men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height.” (Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.4-6.)

The Romans gathered three legions and four regiments of cavalry, and the movement was quickly and brutally suppressed. Judas’ army was routed and the Romans set fire to Sepphoris. This time two thousand Jews were slaughtered. A young Yeshua may have witnessed the battle from a distance. Yeshua might have seen the surviving members of Judas’s army crucified on crosses, and a long line of Jewish widows and their children marched off to slavery in Rome. Many Jews were convinced their God would come to their aid in battles, and he may have been dismayed and disappointed that this did not happen.

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There is no mention of this encounter in the Gospels either, as they were written in an era when Jewish nationalism was suppressed. Readers did not need to know about the violence and bad feeling of the times.

Despite this decisive defeat, the rebels did not discard their dreams, but went underground. The descendants of Judas and others continued to oppose Roman rule for generations afterwards. Josephus named them “Sicarii,” because their favorite weapon was the Roman dagger, or sica.

Most Palestinian Jews, and particularly the poor peasants of Galilee, must have felt degraded and oppressed by Romans, who had impoverished them, and killed or sold into slavery many of their relatives and friends. The poorer Jews had it hard from many directions; suffering under the burdens of landlessness, poverty, taxation and sometimes violent oppression. Some Galileans resented their fellow Jews who had partially assimilated into the Greco-Roman culture. There is a high probability that Yeshua was one of these disgruntled rustics.

From the Roman perspective, Palestine was an important province by virtue of its position. It was in “the middle of the crescent” of the Middle East, and shared its coastal water with Italy. It was the gateway to the East, a major stop on every trade route from as far away as China, India, Russia and the West. Galilee was considered a parochial backwater, a festering wound that had failed to become peaceful. Palestine would not have appealed as a port of call for the out-posted Roman trooper. It was a hot, dusty desert filled with indignant natives.

Pontius Pilate, governor from 26 to 36 CE, was known as a “pre- fect” or “procurator,” and he came from the Roman equestrian class. Pilate was subordinate to the legate (governor) of Syria at Damascus. He had about three thousand auxiliary soldiers at his disposal, mostly stationed at Caesarea, the provincial capital of Judea, located on the Mediterranean coast seventy-five miles northwest of Jerusalem. A detachment of soldiers was kept as a garrison in Jerusalem. Pilate would make the trip to Jerusalem only when necessary, such as on festive occasions like the Jewish Passover, when up to three thousand soldiers would be stationed there overlooking the temple grounds.

The Structure of Jewish Society

The religious sect one belonged to helped define Jewish identity.

The majority of the Jewish population was non-sectarian, but there were at least three major religious factions: Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes, plus some smaller outfits.

First century Judaism was incredibly diverse, so it is a mistake to slot all Jews neatly into one party or another, or to assume all affiliates of a group had exactly the same beliefs. Bearing that in mind, these groups give a good insight into the Jewish socio-political scene of the times.


The Sadducees were a clan of priests who were the leaders of the temple and the businesses associated with it. Rome appointed all the high priests in the New Testament from a restricted group of families who were allied to them. The “high priest” was a Sadducee the top of the tree. One of the ways Rome micromanaged the country was by controlling him. Part of their role was to identify and deal with insurgents.

The Sadducees derived their income from taxing the common people. They were mentioned in all four of the Gospels, and in Acts, and are most notably known as the “chief priests” involved in the arrest of Jesus. They were wealthy, powerful, elite, and aristocratic, and regarded themselves as spiritually and socially superior to other Jews.

The Sadducees had a strict and rigid interpretation of Jewish Law (the Torah.) They did not believe in a resurrection of the dead, unlike the Pharisees and the much later Christians, because an afterlife is not alluded to in the Law as allegedly logged by Moses.

Traditionally the high priest had to be a descendent of Aaron, said to be the brother of Moses, and was highly regarded by Jews. However, in Jesus’ time, the high priest was not from Aaron’s family, but a Roman appointee, so most common Jews regarded him as an illegitimate imposter and an enemy of the true Israel.

The Sadducees had a degree of control over the Sanhedrin, who were Jewish judges. This institution had been destroyed and then re- established under Herod the Great as a pro Roman religious council to oversee the affairs of faith and religious law. Their members came from many different groups.


The second important Jewish party was the Pharisees. They were a much larger (Josephus estimated about 6000) and heterogeneous group, composed of lay people rather than priests. They devoted most of their energy to defining and strengthening the Torah’s basic precepts. They preached Judaism as a universal faith, and some of them were missionaries.

The Pharisees were middle class people, popular with the general populace and more integrated within the community than the Sadducees. Their interpretation of the Law was more liberal, democratic, and accommodating. Parts of the Gospels portray them as rigid, but that was not the case. Although well respected, they had little real direct political power. The Pharisees, like the Sadducees, thought they too belonged to an inner circle that totally understood religious issues. Some of them believed in heaven, a concept that Christianity adopted.

Many Pharisees held a strong hope in the coming of the Messiah, a leader who would deliver them independence. Some scanned the scriptures to predict when he would appear. Yet the Pharisees were not suffering like the peasant classes, so rather than start a fight with Rome by choosing him from their own ranks, they waited for him to show his face.

Hillel, who had many similar teachings to those attributed to Jesus, was a Pharisee, as was (probably) Saint Paul, the mastermind behind Christian theology.

The Pharisees were often mentioned in the New Testament. Matthew writes that Jesus acknowledged their authority but labeled them as hypocrites:

“The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practice what they preach” (Matt. 23:2–4, NJB.)

Luke’s Gospel has Jesus on much more friendly terms with the Pharisees.

The Essenes

The third important group was the Essenes. Historians know a fair bit about them, not only from Flavius Josephus, who may himself have been an Essene, but also from Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, and from the (probably) Essene Qumran community who hid the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Essenes were a heterogeneous group, but some generalizations can be made about them. They were well respected amongst most Jews. Josephus numbered them at about four thousand, and wrote that they had a strong affection for each other, and lived in groups scattered throughout Judea. The Essenes preferred to wear white and were particular about certain bathing rituals, including baptism. Many were celibate, which was quite unusual, as most Jews considered being celibate as living an incomplete life. The Essenes rejected the pursuit of pleasure, preached poverty, humility, chastity, loving one’s neighbor, and penitence. They believed in a war between the forces of good and evil, and in the need for God’s grace. They strove to speak gently and quietly, to never swear, and were strong believers in justice and that all Jews were equal. They rejected the accumulation of wealth, and shared all their possessions. They claimed to love the truth and to never steal. Unlike the other Jewish sects, they spurned animal sacrifice. They thought of themselves as healers, to be able to cast out demons and restore the dead to life. They were said to foretell the future and to have little fear of death. They were convinced that after death their souls were destined for paradise, provided they had been righteous.

The Essenes deeply resented the Sadducees, so set up their own priesthood separate to the temple. They also mistrusted most of the Pharisees, regarding them as corrupt or hypocritical.

Josephus leaves out one important fact about the Essenes; that many of them were intensely anti-Roman. We know this from the Dead Sea scrolls. Many authors have unknowingly misled modern readers by stating that Essenes were pacifists, which is true, yet once they had decided that God justified a war —a holy war—they would fight. Josephus was writing for a Roman audience, and was trying to present his countrymen in the best possible light, so this omission is understandable.

Yeshua the Essene

There is evidence that Yeshua was an Essene.60 The Essenes had many beliefs in common with those credited to Jesus. Some of the sayings attributed to Jesus are also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (yet his existence is never mentioned in them.) Jesus and his disciples pooled their funds, which were administered by a treasurer, a feature of Essene communities. Many scholars believe that John the Baptist, who could have been Yeshua’s cousin, was an Essene. John baptized Yeshua, so Yeshua clearly had the same beliefs as he.

The Gospel’s writers and editors did not mention the existence of the Essenes, not even once. If it was suggested or implied

( htm )

that Yeshua and the disciples were Essenes, it would have meant they were too fundamentally Jewish and too anti Roman for their readers.

There was a particular group of Essenes known as Nazarenes. John, Yeshua, his family, and his disciples are believed to have been Nazarenes. Obviously, then, they were an important group, and they shall be discussed shortly.



The scribes were mentioned often in the Gospels. They were bureaucrats, and most of them lived in Jerusalem, where they associated with the priests. They were experts in judicial procedures, helpful in the enforcement of Jewish law and custom, and even joined the governing class and served on the Sanhedrin. Because they depended on the wealthy for their training and their positions, they were loyal to the chief priests. There were also some lower-level scribes who served the villages, making contracts and documents and working as government officials.


Zealots were practitioners of armed military resistance against the Romans. They were a militant political, rather than a religious movement, but their ideals were inspired by their religion.

Galilee was the heartland of zealotry. Judas of Galilee (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot, the disciple - who was also said to be a zealot) was an important zealot figure in 6 CE. This is part of what Josephus had to say about him:

“Judas the Galilean was the author of the fourth branch of Jewish philosophy. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord.”

( )

Josephus did not document what happened to Judas, but the author of Acts did;

“And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he got killed too and all of his followers dispersed” (Acts 5:38, NJB.)

The author of Acts did not mention that Roman soldiers killed Judas, perhaps because he did not want readers to draw parallels with Jesus. It is known from contemporary historians that most of Judas’ followers were not “dispersed;” they were killed in battle or captured and crucified.

Zealotry was an attitude that inspired action. There was not one particular group known as “zealots.” Josephus described them as a group of rebels and outsiders who were distinctly separate from all other Jews, because Josephus wanted his Gentile readers to think that most Jews were peace-loving people who were pleased to be part of the empire. In reality, most Jews, particularly the poorer ones, had a degree of zealotry in their hearts, but many of them were too afraid to practice it.


Zealots had significant support from the common people. In 66 CE, perhaps thirty odd years after Yeshua’s death, several large groups of zealots played the leading roles in a major revolt against the Romans. The uprising occurred throughout most of Judea and included the capital, Jerusalem. The Romans responded by routing Galilee. The Roman troops then laid siege to Jerusalem in 70 CE, destroyed the temple and massacred an estimated one million Jews. ( ).

Josephus quite rightly held zealots responsible for starting the war. Interestingly, Josephus may have originally been a Galilean zealot who defected to the Roman side. If so, he was a traitor. Josephus spent the rest of his life living in Rome and writing pro-Roman history.

It was during this war that Essene zealots at Qumran hid the Dead Sea Scrolls from the invading Roman army.

There are interesting similarities between the ancient zealots and the popular image of today’s Al Quada; a strong belief that they are being oppressed by foreigners; a firm adherence to religious beliefs; a reckless disregard for personal safety; a preference for violence over peaceful negotiation; and a disregard for human life. Both groups have been willing to kill their countrymen who do not agree with them. The same self-righteous fanaticism inspired by religious belief is evident.

The Nazarenes

Yeshua was a Nazarene, as stated in the Bible: Acts referred to

“Jesus Christ the Nazarene” (Acts 2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22:8, 26:9, NJB.)

Most Christians assume the term “Nazarene” referred to the fact that Jesus came from the village of Nazareth. This was, after all, what Matthew claimed, (Matt. 2:23) but Nazareth the place was probably not the real origin of the term. On (almost) every occasion that Jesus was referred to as being “of Nazareth,” the real meaning is “the Nazarene.” As mentioned, Nazareth the village probably did not exist in Yeshua’s time.

The Bible made it clear that the term “Nazarene” referred to a sect, not a place, when in the book of Acts, Paul is accused of being a Nazarene.

“The plain truth is that we find this man a perfect pest; he stirs up trouble among Jews the world over, and is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” (Acts 24:5, NJB.)

An important religious sect would not have been named after an obscure Galilean village. Calling him Jesus “of Nazareth” was a ploy to distract from his sectarian affiliations.

Hugh Schonfield, who devoted his life to studying Judaism and Yeshua, claims Nazarenism was an ancient version of Judaism. He thought that the original founder of the Nazarene sect might have been a Jewish-Arabian prophet named Essa in approximately 400 BCE. So, if Schonfield was right, the Nazarenes were already well established in Jesus’ time.

Many eminent scholars have linked the Nazarenes with the Essene sect at Qumran. One might consider the Nazarene sect a strongly developed messianic form of “Essenism.”

( is a Nazarene.htm. “Hugh J.Schonfield” AND subject%3A “Nazarenes”. )

John the Baptist, Yeshua’s family, disciples and followers were all Nazarenes. The “pillars” Paul refers to (James, Peter, and John) in his second letter to the Galatians, were the leaders and key figures of this group after Yeshua’s death. They were Jews, not Christians. They practiced circumcision, believed in baptism, and were strict about the Sabbath. They were vegetarians who did not approve of the slaughter of animals, either for food or sacrifice. They developed their own “Halacha,” which was their interpretation of the Torah. The Nazarenes were true believers in the power and glory of Israel, saw themselves as God’s chosen people, and were vehemently opposed to the Romans. They were zealots, willing to take on the Romans, which was why the Roman world considered a Nazarene “a pest” who “stirs up trouble among Jews the world over.”

The Nazarenes considered the temple was the house of God, but were opposed to the Sadducees who they regarded as Roman collaborators. They had a broad base of support among Jews throughout Judea and much of the Roman Empire. Many ordinary Jews and Pharisees would have considered the Nazarenes brothers in the struggle against Rome.

Yeshua became the Nazarene chief after John the Baptist’s death, and he remained in charge for (probably) a few years. Leadership was inherited from blood relations, which explains it passing from John the Baptist to Yeshua, and after Yeshua’s death, on to James, his brother.

James and the other Nazarenes did not think Yeshua was the Son of God, or that Yeshua needed to die to save anyone from their sins. The Nazarenes believed Yeshua was a (human) prophet who they hoped could be Israel’s messiah.

We read very little about this group in the pages of history because mainly Gentiles wrote that history, and the early Christians ignored the Nazarenes, or wrote them off as heretics, or tried to claim that some of the Nazarenes believed in the divinity of Christ.

The modern reader is best served by having an interest in Yeshua’s and the Nazarene’s story.

( )

Yeshua the Young Man

Apart from Luke’s brief mention of Jesus as a twelve-year-old, (Luke 2:41–47) the Gospels failed to mention any notable facts about Jesus’ life until he was aged about thirty, a remarkable omission. Writing a comprehensive biography obviously was not the authors’ priority, and they probably were not as familiar with Jesus’ story as they would have liked their readers to think they were. It is also possible that they knew some more facts about Yeshua, yet chose not to document them.

Joseph, who might have been either Jesus’ father or stepfather, may have died early as he disappeared from the Gospels without an explanation. Mary may have married again, but if she had not, Yeshua, the eldest sibling, would have become the leader of the household.

Yeshua’s family was said to be poor, so Yeshua would probably have had to toil to take care of them—perhaps as a farmer, or possibly as a laborer constructing the cities of Sepphoris or Tiberias. In about 19 CE, when Yeshua was a young man, the city of Tiberias on the banks of the Sea of Galilee was under construction, thirty kilometers from today’s Nazareth. He must have walked through its streets. Today it is Northern Israel’s most popular holiday resort. That construction work might have kept Yeshua busy six days a week. The seventh day was the Sabbath, on which no Jew would do any work.

The young Yeshua breathed Galilean air that was thick with anti- Roman feeling. He would have heard stories about Jewish men killed by Roman soldiers, and how their families were abducted, and maybe even seen the fighting first hand. Every day Yeshua would have had to face the ugly reality of being poor, and he would have blamed the pagans with their brutal army for the way things were. This was not the glorious kingdom God had promised Israel in Scripture.

Many larger cities in Galilee housed Gentiles, and Yeshua would have resented their presence, yet would have had little to do with them.

The Jewish expectation for a political leader (a Messiah or “savior”) had been introduced in parts of Isaiah, which was probably written during or just after the Babylonian captivity. It refers to the restoration of the nation of Israel.

In Yeshua’s day there was a widespread hope among Jews that a Messiah would lead the people in a revolt to establish the “kingdom of God,” in which Jews would be in charge and the world’s wealth would be distributed evenly, not condensed in Roman hands and aristocratic families. ( ).

Josephus, writing in the late first century, explains why many Jews had these patriotic dreams:

“That which chiefly excited them to war was an ambiguous prophecy, which was also found in the sacred books, that at that time someone, within their country should arise, that should obtain the empire of the whole world. For this they had spoken of one of their nation; and many wise men were deceived with the interpretation” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews.)

Two secular Roman historians say something similar:

“There had spread all over the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated for men coming from Judea to rule the world.” (Seutonius, Life of Vespasian, 4.5.)

“The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judea would go forth men destined to rule the world.” (Tacitus, Histories 5.13.)

Throughout the first century revolutionary groups of zealots, led by hopeful Jewish Messianic leaders, promised apocalyptic deliverance, but achieved nothing lasting. The Qumran community, who compiled the Dead Sea Scrolls, was one such group. They had a pathological hatred for the Romans (whom they called the “Kittim.”) They also despised the Sadducees, who they regarded as Rome’s lackeys. After years of Roman domination, the Qumran community dreamed of a bloody revenge. A part of the Scrolls describes a fantasy of a battle in which the Kittim were crushed:

“This shall be a time of salvation for people of God, and age of dominion for all the members of His company, and of everlasting destruction for the company of Satan... The dominion of the Kittim shall come to an end and iniquity shall be vanquished, leaving no remnant for the sons of darkness, there shall be no escape. The sons of righteousness shall shine over all the ends of earth; they shall go on shining until all the seasons of darkness are consumed and, at the season appointed by God, His exalted greatness shall shine eternally to the peace, blessing, glory, and long life of all the sons of light”

The leader of the army who led them in this fantasized battle is unequivocally called the “Messiah.” Whoever wrote this was obviously fanatical and, as things turned out, rather deluded, as neither God nor a successful Messiah ever made an appearance.

The poorer classes must have dreamed about a Messiah who might make their lives so much better. It is not hard to imagine that any charismatic Jew brave enough to claim he was the Messiah could soon collect a gang of Galilean paupers to back him up, particularly if he was said to be David’s descendant. A young Yeshua must have wondered who this Messiah was going to be.

As most Essenes were celibate, Yeshua may not have had a family of his own. Nor would Yeshua have been bothered with accumulating wealth. He was a man with an altogether different agenda.

Most young men are irked by any imposition on their freedom. If they are poor and have little hope for a positive future, their frustration escalates. In most cultures, identity and self-respect are aligned with religious and ethnic affiliation. Bad feelings against foreigners boil over if these features of identity are compromised. Picture young Arabs in the Gaza strip for the modern equivalent.

Yeshua was young, poor, oppressed, and almost certainly a religious idealist.

Yeshua the Zealot

If something swims in the sea, in a school of fish, looks like a fish, and gets caught on a hook, that something is a fish. Yeshua was part of the underdog class, and lived in a time and in a place that was a hotbed of political unrest. Yeshua had the right pedigree to be a zealot; he talked, lived, and associated with zealots, and he was killed as a zealot, (discussed shortly) so the rational observer would be correct in regarding him as a zealot. A man in this context could have fashioned himself as the head of a gang of Galilean militants, a gang unified by their shared resentment of the fact that Romans were rulers in God’s holy land. Yeshua most likely made a career out of preaching about his political aspirations for Israel. There is much evidence for this in the Bible.

Matthew claimed that Herod the Great was perturbed that the baby Jesus might one day be king, so Herod had a lot of Jewish baby boys killed. Matthew wanted the reader to think that Herod considered Jesus a threat, and so Matthew was priming people with the idea that Jesus was destined to be their Messiah, the King of Israel. There is no historical secular evidence that this very unlikely scenario actually happened. Herod’s job was to keep the peace, not wreak havoc.

Jesus was closely associated with zealots. Simon (Yeshua’s brother) is twice named as a zealot (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). Judas Iscariot may have been a zealot because the name “Iscariot” is cognate with the Latin “Sicarius,” a dagger-wielding zealot assassin. Simon Peter, one of Yeshua’s disciples, was known as “Bar-jona,” (Mt. 16:17) a name commonly given to zealots. James, another of Yeshua’s brothers, and John, one of his disciples, shared the nickname “Boanerges” or in Hebrew “benei ra’ash,” which meant “sons of thunder,” another well-known zealot reference. ( ).

It is unlikely the Gospel authors invented these pro Jewish names, so they are probably genuine. This gives further weight to the argument that Jesus was a zealot.

Yeshua’s disciples would not have given up their jobs and families to tramp around the countryside to listen to platitudes. Life was too harsh and the times too cutthroat for that. It is far more likely that Yeshua and his disciples wanted to create a better life for them- selves and their families. Young men two thousand years ago were just as brave, worldly and idealistic as they are today. These young Jews had been raised in a culture that worshipped their one and only god, Yahweh. They thought that Yahweh was on their side, and imagined he was offended by the presence of Gentiles in the holy land.

Consider Jesus’ attitude to violence:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, NJB.)

Some Christians go to great lengths discussing what Jesus “really meant” when he said this, yet perhaps the quote is best taken at face value.

Consider Jesus’ attitude to the rich:

“Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB.)

In Jesus’ day most of the wealthy were in collusion with the Romans, a fact that probably greatly perturbed the Nazarenes.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, a follower of Jesus says:

“Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free” (Luke 24:21, NJB.)

To set Israel free could only mean one thing in first century Judea - to remove Roman rule.

The Gospels’ authors often portrayed Jesus as a zealot - a fact that can be read directly, and “between the lines.” More evidence for this follows.

Brothers in Arms...John and Yeshua

According to James Tabor, in The Jesus Dynasty, John the Baptist started a Messianic movement well before Yeshua became a public figure. John was probably a charismatic Essene teacher, a man who created excitement. The people considered him a prophet; someone qualified to tell them what their God expected of them. John had the credentials to be a legitimate priest, as he was said to be a descendant of Aaron (see Luke 1; 5.) John may have refused to respect the temple hierarchy in Jerusalem, as there is no evidence he ever associated with them. Instead, John went into the wilderness to proclaim to the people that the coming of the Messiah was close at hand, which meant only one thing to poor Jews: a war was on the horizon. John baptized believers and told his brethren to repent and get ready for the beginning of a new world order in which they would not be poor and oppressed. His message may have been well received, as the Bible boasts that he attracted many followers. ( ).

The site on the River Jordan where John baptized people is only three miles from Qumran, the home of a large Essene community. This is the same community that may have hidden the Dead Sea Scrolls a few decades later. No one knows if John the Baptist associated with the Qumran community, but it is probable, given the close proximity of their activities.

The Gospels claim that John and Jesus held each other in high regard, and that they were cousins. John had already preached for a number of years, and already had a contingent of followers, before Yeshua became a public figure.

The Gospel writers could not imply that Yeshua played a subordinate role to John, so each strove to make Jesus seem more senior than John. Yet the Gospel writers could not conceal the fact that John baptized Jesus the novitiate. In reality John was the more established and authoritative instructor, and Yeshua was his protégé.

Yeshua’s stature grew as time went by. The two of them might have planned that once they had established political power in Palestine, John, the heir of Aaron, was to be the new high priest and Yeshua, the descendent of David, the new King of Israel.

It seems likely the two cousins parted ways to double the capacity of their campaign, which probably involved telling carefully selected, disgruntled groups of Jews about their plan to wage a war. The two young men probably used religion to excite and galvanize large numbers of poor patriotic Jews. Baptizing people with water was a symbolic re-enactment of the ancient Jews’ (fictitious) crossing of the Red Sea to freedom. The two friends may have been offering peasant Jews a new freedom, a freedom from Rome.

By the end of 27 CE, the Messianic movement started by John may have only recognized two types of Jews in Palestine, those who had responded by being baptized, and those who had not. The dichotomy was between baptized militant and non-baptized non-militant Jews. If this was so, this was no small-scale backyard scheme; it was a serious shift in the people’s attitude towards war with the Romans.

Herod Antipas, the Romans’ puppet king, must have been watching John like a hawk. Any Galilean prophet preaching to the public was presumed to be a zealot. Herod had John arrested and killed. This is how Josephus, a secular historian, described John’s murder:

“...what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, when many others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly, he was sent a prisoner, out
of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before men- tioned, and was there put to death.”
(Antiquities 18.5.2 116-119.)

( )

Herod, the pro Roman puppet king, was wary of a coup commanded by John, so had him killed. The Gospel authors deliberately did not detail the real reason for John’s threat to Herod, because that reason did not fit with their invented image of John and Jesus as pacifist evangelists.

As a side issue, Josephus also points out that John had criticized Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, which would not have endeared John to Herod, and may have partly been responsible for Herod’s treatment of John.

John’s death in early 28 CE must have been a serious setback for the Nazarene’s struggle against Rome.

Yeshua Takes Over the Leadership

At age thirty, Essene men traditionally took on a leadership role. All eyes would have turned to Yeshua, the consummate candidate. Yeshua stepped up to the mark and took over as leader of the Nazarenes. He may have inherited four of John’s disciples, namely be continued
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RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"

Yeshua Takes Over the Leadership

At age thirty, Essene men traditionally took on a leadership role. All eyes would have turned to Yeshua, the consummate candidate. Yeshua stepped up to the mark and took over as leader of the Nazarenes. He may have inherited four of John’s disciples, namely Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael, (John 1:35–42) and they became part of an inner council of twelve.

Yeshua had to prove he was a charismatic and capable Nazarene leader, or risk losing the impetus they had already created. Yeshua knew that the prophets had predicted a messiah. Jeremiah had written:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5–6, KJV)

and there were similar predictions in Isaiah 9:7, Micah 5:4, and Amos 9:11. It may be that Yeshua thought that God had made clear what was expected of him in Scripture.

Today’s politicians tour their electorate before an election to meet the people, increase their profile, sell their message, and gauge support. It is probable Yeshua toured the countryside for the same reasons. It is also likely that his message was that he wanted to start a war in Jerusalem. This war would be best started around Passover time, when large crowds were gathered in Jerusalem.

The following passages from Luke portray Jesus as the social revolutionary he was.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19, KJV) and

“Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh” (Luke 6:20–21, KJV) and

“But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consola- tion. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:24–25, KJV.)

The meaning is clear - Jesus made a number of promises - the kingdom of God was about to be established, a glorious Israel was just around the corner, and the social order was about to be dramatically changed. This could realistically mean only one thing in first century Israel; Jesus was promising that Roman rule was about to end.

Matthew reports Jesus as saying,

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12, KJV.)

These are not the words of a pacifist preacher, but of a bellicose insurgent.

These rally calls were not what everyone wanted to hear. Some of his fellow Jews

“...rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way” (Luke 4:29–30, KJV.)

Why such an angry reaction? Yeshua called for the overthrow of the social structure, and that did not suit everyone. There were some powerful people making more than a good living just the way things were. Some of the people would have been petrified at the prospect of a war with Rome.

Dreaming about his mission as Messiah might have inspired Yeshua, yet he would have been wary. Yeshua knew there had been many hopeful heroes before him who had failed, and most of them had been killed. He knew there was a new Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, who was brutal towards anyone challenging Roman rule. He must have been well aware that a gruesome death could be his ultimate fate too.

Yeshua probably knew Herod Antipas was after him, as suggested in the Bible. Luke wrote;

“Just at this time some Pharisees came up. Go away they said, leave this place, because Herod means to kill you” (Luke 13:31, NJB.)

If Jesus had been a harmless religious enthusiast roaming the countryside preaching to the people about God and life, Herod would have had no reason to seek him out. Some Pharisees obviously admired Yeshua and hoped to save him from a Roman crucifixion. Jesus heeded the warning by crossing the Sea of Galilee to put himself beyond Herod’s reach. (See Matthew 14:13.)

The Synoptic Gospels named Jesus’ twelve disciples. There are some discrepancies in the names between the Gospels, but Jesus’ three brothers (James, Jude, and Simon) are deliberately mentioned last in the list in all three Gospels, along with Judas the traitor, probably so as to minimize their importance. Yet, considering the importance of family in ancient Israel, it is far more likely his three brothers were, in fact, his dearest disciples.

Yeshua may have drilled his disciples with the direction to

“Go nowhere among the gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5–6, NJB.)

Yeshua was not about to give his plans away to enemy agents.

Some of the people

“...believed in him...when he spoke many more came to believe” (John 4:39–41, NJB.)

The Gospel authors usually hid from their readers what “believing in him” really meant, but not always. It is written in the same Gospel

“Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. Here is this man working all these signs they said and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him and the Romans will come and destroy our Holy place and our nation” (John 11:45–49, NJB.)

This is precisely what happened thirty-five odd years later, in 70 CE, when the Romans pillaged the countryside, laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, a fact well known to the author of John. Here it is in black and white: the Bible was clearly implying that Jesus was plotting to start a war with Rome, a war that the chief priests and Pharisees thought they would lose!

Jesus’ message was not well received in some towns:

“Then he began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. ‘Alas for you Chorazin! Alas for you Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes. And still I tell you it will not go as hard on Judgment day on Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down into hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, you would have been standing yet. And still I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgment day as with you” (Matt. 11:20–24, NJB.)

Jesus is said to have spent a lot of time in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, three places located on or near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and populated almost exclusively by Jews. These towns were, in a nationalistic and geographical sense, part of his home turf. Why would the inhabitants not support him? A probable explanation is that the locals were terrified of the consequences of another revolt. Yeshua discovered he could not count on their assistance, so he cursed them and moved on.

Yeshua may have spent at least a year, and perhaps three, tramping around the countryside trying to elicit promises of military help. The Gospels allege Jesus was a harmless rabbi preaching ethics and theology, attracting large audiences hoping for a miracle. Yet the weight of evidence is that Yeshua’s agenda was a lot harsher, more desperate and dangerous than that. Convincing peasants to pick up arms against professional troops was no easy task. Trying to sell himself as the Messiah would have been a tricky business. The fact Yeshua was attracting a weighty following would have raised Roman suspicion, so he had to be very careful not to be arrested. Any unfamiliar face Yeshua encountered may have been a spy. His supporters must have had to regularly scan the horizon for danger.

Yeshua had a public image as a courageous and capable leader to promote, which would have been tiresome. The sun must have baked his skin, and the hot sand stung his eyes. Water was sparse, so he would have been caked in sweat and grime. At night he would often have had to sleep out in the open. It must have been a struggle to find shelter and food. In those times by age 30 people’s teeth were infected and falling out. Wounds healed slowly and parasites caused diarrhoea. Yeshua may have been malnourished. A less determined man may have found the going too tough to continue working the way he did. After at least a year or more on the road, continuously having to be wary of pro Roman enemies, there is a high probability that Yeshua was physically and mentally drained.

Yeshua Enters Jerusalem

Toward what was to be the end of his campaign, Yeshua focused on Jerusalem. It was the political, economic and spiritual center of the Jewish nation, and boasted a large Jewish population that swelled exponentially around Passover. If Yeshua was going to begin an insurrection, it had to start there.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus preached by day at the temple and retreated to a safe house at nearby Bethany before nightfall. Jesus was anointed with oil. The word “Messiah” means an anointed one, as does the name “Christ.” So the name Jesus Christ is referring to Jesus, the anointed one.

In the Old Testament, to anoint someone was a one-time event that specifically selected the person as a king or a high priest (or maybe a prophet.) It seems that Yeshua wanted to be a king. By being anointed, Yeshua was publically accepting his post as the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

Passover was an annual commemoration of Jewish freedom at which the city accommodated 300-400,000 pilgrims. Roman authorities were on their guard against civil disobedience. Pilate, the Roman governor, always attended the Passover celebrations in Jerusalem to keep an eye on things.

Jews outnumbered Roman soldiers by something like one hundred to one, which made the Roman soldiers very edgy. The event was a tinderbox that could catch alight given the right spark, and everyone knew it.

If Yeshua rode on a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and throngs of jubilant Jews greeted him, everyone must have known someone special had arrived. Yeshua effectively broadcasted his intentions to the crowd, many of whom might have earlier been primed with his plan. Pious pilgrims were expected to walk into the Holy City, so Yeshua was deliberately doing his best to stand out from the rabble by riding. The son of David had surfaced and was staking his claim! Yeshua may have been trying to fulfill a prophesy from Zechariah, which reads,

“Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9, NJB)

Yeshua must have known that to play the part of a king was an act of treason against Caesar, and punishable by death, yet he did it right under the noses of the Sadducees and the Romans. It was a move made by a brave man. It could have been a calculated lampoon of the entrance one would expect from a Roman emperor. Perhaps Yeshua was taking a gamble, guessing he would not or could not be arrested, because he was so popular with the people.

Maybe Yeshua was hoping to enlist the support of the Jewish revelers in Jerusalem, and with their help, overpower the Roman garrison and thereby launch a full-scale rebellion against Rome. This was quite an ambitious agenda, and Yeshua would have been well aware of the risks, yet encouraged by the hope that his God was going to help him.

Matthew claimed that the crowds in Jerusalem hailed him as a hero:

“Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from trees spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and who followed were all shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens! And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was in turmoil. Who is this people asked, and the crowds answered, this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matt. 21:8–12, NJB.)

“Hosanna” was a Jewish exclamation welcoming someone who “saves.” It was a cry of independence. The spectators were saluting the son of David, a legitimate Jewish King. They were obviously well aware something big was about to happen.

Luke wrote:

“Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Master, check your disciples,’ but he answered, ‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39–40 JB.)

It sounds like Yeshua put on a persuasive performance. He proved himself plucky and purposeful, just like a real ruler. The crowds bought it, and were excited. The whole city was in turmoil. There were a lot of excited men in Jerusalem, all celebrating being Jewish, and it must have seemed like anything was possible. Here was a young charismatic man making out like he was a king and seeming to fulfill prophecies written in Scripture. Could this be the birth of the kingdom of God they had been waiting for?

This was a high point in Yeshua’s career and he would have been flushed with excitement. Everything was going to plan. He now had to be careful not to be arrested before he had rallied Jewish fighters under his wing.

The next day Yeshua went to the temple. This was where fees were to be paid to the priests, and to the moneychangers who exchanged Roman coinage and Jewish currency. It was also where money was collected to pay for the places that offered ritual bathing, for the actual animals, and for the priests to kill the animals. There was rent to be collected from the hoards of visitors who had to stay overnight, and fees for feeding them. The priests had engineered things so that the temple was where all this happened. Yeshua was clearly compromising all this by turning the tables over, causing a ruckus in a city centered on the temple-based economy. He must have had a crowd of Jewish supporters to cheer him on and protect him, so to arrest him on the spot would have been difficult. To start a scene in the temple and test the authority of the Sadducees was making another affirmation that he had arrived. It showed that Yeshua was willing to be aggressive to achieve his aims.

That night Yeshua returned to a safe house at Bethany, yet Luke’s account makes it clear that Jewish authorities had him under surveillance.

The next day Jesus provoked the temple hierarchy again by debating them in public. Matthew had Jesus state that what belonged to Caesar should be returned to Caesar, (Matt. 22:21) in other words that Jews should pay taxes to Rome. It is probable this was written in to derail readers from reaching the conspicuous conclusion that Jesus was a zealot. It makes no sense to imagine that a man who turned over tables in the temple would pay tax to Caesar.

The atmosphere in Jerusalem must have been very heated and tense. Something definitive was bound to happen soon; one of the sides was going to pick up their weapons. Consider the principal players in the evolving events.

On one side was Yeshua, who was convinced that he was a king and the Messiah of Israel. He had been emboldened and protected by a show of support from a pepped up Jewish populace. He was now under pressure to play his hand. At this critical time, tactics were everything. Yeshua knew there had to be a fight, but how and when to start it? He may have been waiting for divine help from Yahweh, whom he knew had helped previous prophets win wars, because that was what was written in Scripture.

On the other side were the Roman army and the chief priest, the Sanhedrin and their associates. Pontius Pilate, who contemporary historians described as dictatorial and violent, supervised the soldiers who were nervous, organized, trained, and in fine fettle.

Jewish leaders knew that Yeshua was hoping to start a revolt. They were powerful men supported by Rome and the last thing they wanted was a zealot stirring up the people. A Jewish insurrection would threaten their positions and even their lives, because the Roman garrison could not protect them from thousands of hot- headed Jews. They had to act quickly and decisively to prevent Yeshua gaining the upper hand. A conflict was inevitable. The stage was set for a showdown between Rome and what Yeshua believed was the true Israel.

Matthew made it clear that Jesus was trying to rally the people:

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and made plans to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death. They said ‘however it must not be during the festivities, there must be no disturbance among the people” (Matt. 26:3–6, NJB.)

Luke wrote something similar:

“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.” (Luke 22:1-2, KJV.)

This was followed by

“And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet” (Luke 21:45–46, NJB.)

The chief priests knew Yeshua was plotting against them, and that the crowds could turn ugly.

Yeshua was hoping for a large-scale battle, yet knew that his immediate entourage of admirers would be easily outnumbered by Roman troops. Yeshua probably understood that he inspired the rank and file, but could he count on them to confront professional soldiers in combat? To engage a few thousand Roman infantry in hand to hand hostility was an ominous prospect. The people were not soldiers. Many of them had families, a fact that did not deter his drive, as he had earlier pressured people to abandon their families and follow him. ( 10:34-36& version=KJV ).

The people were not well armed. Luke had Jesus say to his disciples,

“If you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36, NJB.)

Yeshua was getting his fellow Jews geared up for the great fight. He was playing the part of the Messiah, and knew nothing about “blessed are the peacemakers” and “turn the other cheek.” When push came to shove, the gallant young man from Galilee was getting ready to fight for God and glory!

One night Yeshua retreated out of Jerusalem to the garden of Gethsemane, on the north east edge of Jerusalem, about 100 yards outside the city wall. The formation of an assembly at night was against Roman law. It is claimed that Jesus directed his disciples to keep watch. Yeshua knew if his enemies got to him without the peoples’ protection all would be lost. Unfortunately for him, that is exactly what happened.

Yeshua’s Arrest

Yeshua and his entourage were outmaneuvered. The Romans swooped on them in the garden of Gethsemane while Jewish residents slept. John claimed a cohort of soldiers was consigned to collar Jesus:

“Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons”
(John 18:3 JB.)

Someone had betrayed Yeshua to the Romans. A cohort was six hundred Roman soldiers, one tenth of a legion. Pilate would not have sent this many men to arrest an agreeable, unarmed, peace-loving preacher who thought he was God. Yeshua was a big fish with an entourage of admirers, swimming in a city packed with potential patrons, so he needed to be decisively dealt with before things got out of hand.

Some of Yeshua’s disciples were with him at the time of his arrest. One or more of them was supposed to be on watch. It must have been intimidating to have that many soldiers tramping toward you in the dead of night, torchlight reflecting off their swords and armor, shining up a silhouette of trees in the distance. It was probably no contest.

The Gospels make out that Jesus was surprised that force was used to capture him:

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?” (Mark 14; 48, KJV)

This does not ring true, particularly when we read in John that

“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” (John 18; 10, KJV.)

Most of Yeshua’s mates dashed off into the dark, leaving him to his fate. They had been taken by surprise, outplayed by more experienced, more professional opponents. Yeshua was trumped before he had made his master move. Yeshua was taken into custody, so was unable to issue instructions. His allies had let him down, and he must have known what was in store for him. Luke claimed Jesus was sweating blood (Luke 22; 44.) Luke was trying to tell how terrified Jesus was about his impending crucifixion.

Much is made in the Gospels about Peter’s remorse for disowning Jesus. There were others in the troop too terrified to put their lives on the line, and they must have felt just as guilty. The fact that Peter had to lie about his identity suggests that Roman soldiers were chasing anyone who was part of the gang of insurrectionists.

Yeshua would have felt abandoned not only by his friends but also by his God. His work and dreams had come to nothing, and he probably played the last card of a wretched man by begging his God for a miracle.

The Trial

Matthew claims Jesus was arrested because he claimed he was divine, but Yeshua did not fantasize that he was God. Jews believed in only one God, Yahweh. Yeshua would not have had any helpers if he had made a blasphemous claim that he was God. Nor could the Romans have cared less about a peasant’s delusions of grandeur. The Romans never got involved in Jewish religious disputes unless they turned into a security issue. The high priest, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, Pilate, and his army all knew Yeshua had hoped to start a rebellion against Rome.

All the Gospel authors made out Jesus was given a trial. Jesus was taken before Pilate and the accusation made:

“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23:2 NKJ.)

Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the Jews and Jesus answered,

“It is as you say it” (Luke 23:3 NKJ.)

This perfectly described the crux of the issue: Jesus was accused of undermining the government and the taxation system. Jesus effectively signed his own death warrant by admitting he thought of himself as the King of the Jews.

Genuine Jewish kings did not pay Roman tax, so this contradicted Jesus’ earlier injunction to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (see Matthew 22:21.) ( )

Luke was the only Gospel author who claimed that Jesus was taken before Herod. Luke states Jesus refused to talk to Herod. Yeshua would have hated Herod, the man who had his cousin beheaded. Herod supposedly found Jesus not guilty, but this makes no sense, as Luke had earlier claimed that Herod wanted Jesus killed. (Luke 13:31.)

Mark claimed,

“... the chief priests however had incited the crowd” (Mark 15:11, NJB.)

This poorly explained excuse was the only reason given in any of the Gospels for “the crowd” turning against Jesus. This crowd supposedly shouted that they would rather have a common criminal, Barabbas, freed instead of Jesus. No such custom of releasing the crowd’s favorite was ever recorded in any non-Biblical document. Mark implied this crowd was made up of Jerusalem’s people, whom Mark had earlier described as the “multitudes” who had welcomed Jesus as a king and a hero in a ticker tape parade when he rode into the city. This same Jewish crowd thought Jesus was a prophet and had laid clothes and branches at his feet. The chief priests feared the Jewish people would create an uproar if Jesus were arrested. Can anyone believe Jerusalem’s people had such a complete change of mind about their hero?

Romans were made to look as if they were really sympathetic towards Jesus. Pilate, the Roman governor, allegedly read a letter from his wife about a dream she had that Jesus was innocent. Pilate supposedly said,

“I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4 KJV.)

Pilate is depicted as trying to talk the angry Jews out of having Jesus crucified, but gave in to the public clamor, because

“... in fact a riot was imminent” (Matt. 27:24 KJV.)

So the crowd that was going to riot if Jesus was arrested (see Matt. 26:3–6) was now about to riot if Jesus was not crucified. This scenario makes no sense. It is obvious that most of Jesus’ Jewish compatriots, that is the common people, idolized him, and would not have wanted him crucified! Therefore this passage is almost certainly a pro Roman fabrication.

Pilate, Rome’s representative, allegedly washed his hands of any responsibility for the decision to kill Jesus. This did not happen; it was theatrical propaganda, not real history. To pronounce a man innocent, and then command your troops to kill him anyway, is preposterous.

Pilate’s job was to keep the peace and make sure Jews paid tax. Jesus was a dangerous subversive, threatening a rebellion, so Pilate could not have found him innocent. There was probably no public trial. To have a public trial at that time of year would be just asking for trouble, particularly as it is made abundantly clear that Jesus had a firm contingent of support amongst the people.

Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judaea from AD 26–36. He is described by contemporary secular historians as being notorious for his cruelty toward the Jews. For example Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, writing in 41 CE, stated that Pilate’s tenure in power was notable for its

“. . . briberies, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injustices, con- stantly repeated executions without trial, and ceaseless and grievious cruelty” (Legatio ad Gaium, 301–302.)

Josephus too reported several instances of Pilate flagrantly inciting an insurrection, only to ruthlessly suppress it with his soldiers.

In 36 CE, Vitellius, the Roman Syrian governor, removed Pilate from his office after a violent attack on the Samaritans (Josephus, Antiquities 18.4.85.) Pilate was ordered to Rome to face complaints of excessive cruelty against the Jews, found culpable, and exiled to Vienne, France. Pilate’s true colors come across in secular history, not in the Gospels. The real Pilate clearly was not a character wracked with ambivalence about whether to crucify Yeshua.

The Crucifixion

One of the authors of Matthew had Jews say,

“His blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:24–25, NJB.)

Jews publically cursed themselves for being Christ-killers, which is highly improbable.

The Jewish passersby allegedly mocked Jesus:

“The passersby jeered at him; they shook their heads and said ‘if you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’” (Matt. 27:39–40, NJB.)

Yet the Jewish crowd would not have been that callous to one of their own. They would have been appalled that Jesus was dying such a despicable death.

Moreover, if his fellow Jews had wanted to kill Jesus, he would have been stoned to death, which could only have happened if the Romans gave the Jews permission to do so.

The Gospel authors could not have Romans responsible for killing the Son of God, because the Catholic Church, who promoted the Gospels, became the Church of Rome. The solution was simple; they made the Romans look like unwilling participants in the proceedings, and they accused the anonymous Jewish rabble of wanting Jesus dead.

Crucifixion was an agonizing, demeaning, public death, one reserved for insurgents. It was used by Romans to intimidate anyone who might undermine their authority. The Roman soldiers nailed zealots up naked on a cross; it was part of the humiliation. The degrading death was designed to discourage other charismatic leaders from having their own dangerous dreams.

The sign or “titulus” (Latin for “inscription” or “label”) was the Roman way of exhibiting the explanation for the execution. It was written by Pilate, and read “King of the Jews,” a reflection of Jesus’ real crime.

Luke had a dying Jesus say

“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34, NJB)

referring to the Roman soldiers who had just scourged, mocked and nailed him naked to a cross. It is hard to imagine that Yeshua said this. He is more likely to have damned these soldiers with his dying breaths!

A Roman centurion supposedly said,

“In truth this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54, NJB.)

Yet Christianity, which claimed Jesus was the Son of God, had yet to be invented!

The two men Yeshua was crucified with were labeled as “lestai,” incorrectly translated in some Bibles as “robbers.” In fact “lestai” was a derogatory term for insurrectionists, who, by armed action, opposed Roman rule (, )

So the Roman soldiers crucified Jesus between two zealots, it is written that Jesus thought he was the King of the Jews, and yet the reader is expected to believe that Jesus was a pacifist preacher without any political ambitions!

Roman law allowed no burial rights to those killed by crucifixion. Yeshua’s body would have been left on display for birds and dogs as a deterrent to others who might disobey Rome, although it is possible that Pilate made an exception and gave permission for the body to be buried.

Yeshua was dead, a deeply disheartening development. Yet all was not lost. Yeshua was only one man. The Nazarenes could bounce back, just as they had after John’s demise. Someone charismatic needed to take control. That person was James, Jesus’ brother.

There is strong evidence that the resurrection of Jesus is a later invention, so it has been omitted here.

Summary of Yeshua’s Life

Yeshua probably did exist, yet was someone quite different from the Jesus character in the Gospels.

Rather than passively accepting the conventional Christian account, we are best served by paying Yeshua more respect by acknowledging his humanity, family, society, and religion. It makes sense to circumvent Christian mythology by placing Jesus in the religious context of first-century Judaism, the political context of Roman occupation and violent oppression, and the social context of poverty.

Yeshua was the first-born child of a young Jewish girl, and his biological father, identity unknown, may not have been in the picture to offer him direction. He was probably part of a large family of Jewish peasants.

Yeshua would have been proudly Jewish, and familiar with Jewish Scripture. Like most poor Jews of his time, he must have had some grandiose delusions, such as that Jews were the world’s superior people, specially favored by God and destined to show pagans the proper way to live. Yeshua may have imagined that he was the Messiah, a person depicted in Scripture whose mission was to establish the kingdom of God, an ideal Jewish state, in which everyone worshipped Yahweh. It is possible that Yeshua was convinced that his God would intervene in the affairs of men to help initiate this.

As Yeshua grew up, he would have seen his fellow Galileans oppressed and impoverished by the Romans. Yeshua’s cousin John created a grassroots anti-Roman movement, which Yeshua joined. Herod Antipas, Rome’s puppet ruler, who thought John was a political threat, had John murdered.

Yeshua was brave enough to take over the rebels’ leadership, and worked hard to rally common Jews to his cause, which was nothing less than to expel the Romans and their collaborators from Israel. Yeshua was not the first, or the last Jew to harbor such dreams, and it was a very risky business. His less militant countrymen eschewed joining his ranks.

Yeshua’s goal to overthrow the Romans must have seemed possible because of the enthusiasm with which he was sometimes received, yet (as best we know) he had no military experience or intelligence. So it is no surprise that he fell flat. Yeshua had talked the talk but failed to deliver. The Romans captured, scourged, and crucified him, a punishment reserved for any rebellious insurgent who threatened Roman rule.

Yeshua promised a lot but did not achieve much. As he was dying in agony on a cross, he would have wondered why his God had not helped him, and he must have figured he was a failure. Memories of other Jews crucified by the Romans may have flashed through his mind. Yeshua’s goal had been to liberate Israel, yet he only added his name to a long list of dead Messiahs. Before Yeshua took his last breath, he may have wondered whether the Romans would ever be defeated.

It is ironic that the Romans, the very people Yeshua despised, adopted him as their hero some three centuries after they killed him, and then blamed his own people, the Jews, for his death. The accusation that it was the Jewish people (as a whole) who demanded Jesus’ death is one of the most disgraceful deceptions in the Bible, and it has been the primary source of anti-Semitism throughout history ever since. That has been devastating for the Jewish people, because Churches have harassed the Jews as Christ-killers, with terrible consequences.

Adolf Hitler, who was a Catholic, wrote

“I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Almighty Creator. By fighting the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.”(Mein Kampf p. 65.)

Yeshua had a tough life, and he stood up for what he believed in. He tried hard to make a difference for his compatriots. It is ironic that in places the Gospels portray Jesus as a pacifist, when he was, in fact, a freedom fighter. The Gospels’ authors claim Jesus praised the meek, yet he was a proud man who refused to accept poverty and oppression.

The above assessment of Jesus sees him as a political insurgent. There are others who prefer to see Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel of John:

“... My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36 KJB.)

Yet is it not obvious that the hand of a pro-Roman, anti Jewish author is trying to disguise a militaristic Jesus?

Matthew reports these words from Jesus:

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 KJB.)

Luke has Jesus saying

“And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other...” (Luke 6; 29 KJV.)

Can we realistically imagine this from a man crucified as a zealot?

As a consequence of passages like the above, “Jesus” is often thought of as a peacemaker. The reasons why Jesus was portrayed as a pacifist will be explained later in this book.

The historian needs to examine the important details of ancient biographies such as the Gospels, put them in context, and consider the authors’ credibility and intent. Only then can we have an educated guess as to what may be fact or fiction, and the likely unhistorical parts of the Gospels disregarded.

Yeshua’s political ambitions, or lack thereof, is a topic strongly debated. Some think Yeshua was a Pharisee. Some deny he was an Essene, others say he was a pacifist Essene. Some claim Yeshua was an apocalyptic Messiah on a suicide mission.

Yet if the bare facts of Yeshua’s life are considered; that he was a poor Galilean peasant who led a band of Jewish men around Galilee, that he was hailed as a king, and then arrested and crucified by nervous Romans, the question must be asked why more historians in the past have not realized that he was a political insurgent.

A growing number of scholars claim that Jesus never existed, because there are no contemporary known sources to vouch for him, and they may be right. ( ).

No one knows the whole truth about what happened two thousand years ago. Yet surely the above summary of Yeshua’s life fits with what we know of secular history and is more real than the confusing story people are told in Church. One must either be a diehard Christian, or deliberately dishonest, to reject outright the account that has just been given.

Readers who find this version of events too controversial, or not controversial enough, are asked to remain open minded as further history is discussed in later chapters. Jesus’ story is yet to be put in its full context.

"Jesus" is a Concocted Myth

“Christians at all levels of intelligence and capacity are being denied access to vital information concerning their religion, and this curtailment of information helps breed either an attitude of ill-founded complacency, or one of smug self-certainty. Living in a kind of metaphysical dream, the custodians of ‘old fashioned’ Christianity stumble from one futile explanation of New Testament events to another. Jesus was sinless; Jesus was sexless; Jesus was all-knowing; Jesus is the Savior of the whole World; Jesus is God. Such sentiments slip easily from the lips when the mind has been overtaken by spiritual vertigo due to intellectual undernourishment.” (Douglas Lockhart)

As Lockhart so eloquently states, the Jesus of theology has stripped down the historical Yeshua, leaving only the skeleton of the real man behind.

The evidence indicates that Yeshua was in fact a popular potential Messiah, a charismatic young zealot supposedly from David’s bloodline who was brave enough to stand up to the Romans. Yeshua’s primary agenda was not to preach pagan theology or pacifist ethics, as Christian beliefs would have it. If that had been the case Yeshua would not have had any Jewish followers, nor would he have aroused the attention of the Romans, Herod, Sadducees, or Pharisees. Yeshua attracted the crowds because so many people at that time were poor and oppressed by the Romans. The Jewish people were not looking for a new religion, they were longing for freedom.

Christianity first emerged decades after Yeshua’s death, and then became a religion primarily for Gentiles. Christianity used Yeshua’s story to create something new that was not Jewish, and that Yeshua would not have understood or approved of.

Any real story of Yeshua has been buried beneath a mountain of creeds, jargon and mysteries created many years after he died. Churches have misrepresented Yeshua’s message to make it personal rather than social, spiritual rather than political, and for Gentiles rather than for Jews.

It is highly unlikely that Yeshua thought that he was literally God’s son, or that any of his original disciples thought that of him either. Yeshua never saw himself as the Savior of the World or the Lamb of God. It never crossed his mind to sacrifice himself for sinners. Yeshua never rose from the dead.

The Romans crucified Yeshua twice: once in real life, and then by turning him into “Jesus” and lying about his legacy in the Gospels.

Does it not seem odd and rather macabre that some of today’s Christians worship a crucifix? As Yeshua was tortured, humiliated and killed on a cross, is it not it in poor taste to eagerly advertise the fact? What would Jesus think of that? If he were somehow alive today, would not his stomach turn at the sight of a crucifix?

Does it make sense to:
- worship a Jewish peasant who would never have presumed he was a god?
- Believe that Yeshua loved Gentiles, the very people who humiliated, tortured, and executed him?
- Decide that a dead Jesus can somehow influence the state of today’s world or an individual’s post mortem destiny?

Many commentators over the last couple of centuries have reached some of the same conclusions. Two of the more recent are Reza Asian ( B00EJB44VW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388971264&sr=1-1& keywords=reza ) and Peter Cresswell ( ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388971593&sr=1-1&keywords=peter+ cresswell+jesus ) Authors like these have not had “anti-Christian” agendas; they were just honest historians who believed in the importance of the truth.

Baigent, M. 2006 “The Jesus Papers” Harper Element. London.
Baigent, M., Leigh, R., Lincoln, H. 1986 “The Messianic Legacy” Cape. London.
Cresswell, Peter “Jesus the Terrorist” O Books, Winchester, UK Cross, C. 1970 “Who Was Jesus?” Trinity Press. London
Crossan, J. 1994 “Jesus A Revolutionary Biography”. Harper. San Francisco.
Daniel – Rops, second revised edition 1955 “Jesus in his time” Eyre and Spottiswoode in association with Burn and Oates London
Eisenman, Robert H. “James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls” B00EJB44VW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388971264&sr=1-1& keywords=reza

Gibbon, E. ed. Smith, W. 1855 “The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire”. Murray Books. London.
Hyde, D. 1994 “Rescuing Jesus from the Church” Minkara Pres. Australia
Klinghoffer, D. 1965 “Why The Jews Rejected Jesus”. Doubleday. United States Of America.
Lockhart, D. 1997 “Jesus The Heretic”. Element Books. Dorset.
Lockhart, D. 1999 “The Dark Side Of God”. Element Books. Dorset
Schonfield, H. 1977 “The Passover Plot”. Futura Publications. London
Schonfield, H. 1969 “Those Incredible Christians”. Bantam. New York.
Theiring, B. 1992 “Jesus The Man”. Moorebank. Doubleday Australia.
Tabor, J. 2006 “The Jesus Dynasty”. Harper Collins. London.
Wilken, R. 1971 “The Myth Of Christian Beginnings”. Doubleday. New York.
Yancey, P. 1995 “The Jesus I Never Knew” Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. (highly recommended). ing-the-historical-jesus-sources-and-problems-part-3/ galilee-and-israelite-history-part-2-to-the-time-of-jesus/ the-galilean-and-judean/ in-the-context-of-educated-groups-and-leaders/ jesus-and-his-mentor-john-the-baptizer/ jesus-as-prophet/ jesus-as-a-messianic-king/ jesus-christ---a-scientific-investigation http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.n ytype=printable and-trouble-with-rome.html 8E29AE528&index=12 D8E29AE528 PLBC4882D8E29AE528
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31-07-2015, 10:20 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
Were the Essenes Buddhist?

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem. - Camus
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31-07-2015, 10:25 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
It's "a historian" not "an historian." Can you fix that?

Check out my now-defunct atheism blog. It's just a blog, no ads, no revenue, no gods.
Atheism promotes critical thinking; theism promotes hypocritical thinking. -- Me
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31-07-2015, 10:28 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
(31-07-2015 10:25 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  It's "a historian" not "an historian." Can you fix that? is it?
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31-07-2015, 10:29 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
(31-07-2015 10:20 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Were the Essenes Buddhist?

I don't know much about Buddhism, but I think there's no connection.
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31-07-2015, 10:41 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
(31-07-2015 10:29 PM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  
(31-07-2015 10:20 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Were the Essenes Buddhist?

I don't know much about Buddhism, but I think there's no connection.

I have read of links. Was Jesus a Buddhist?

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem. - Camus
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31-07-2015, 10:49 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
(31-07-2015 10:28 PM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  
(31-07-2015 10:25 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  It's "a historian" not "an historian." Can you fix that? is it?

Not necessarily. Can be "an" if historian is pronounced with a silent "h" as is often the case.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein It is objectively immoral to kill innocent babies. Please stick to the guilty babies.
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31-07-2015, 10:49 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
Give me a couple of seconds to read your post, Mark.Shocking

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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31-07-2015, 10:50 PM
RE: Mark's version of "Jesus"
(31-07-2015 10:28 PM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  
(31-07-2015 10:25 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  It's "a historian" not "an historian." Can you fix that? is it?

Right at the beginning of the chapter, just a few graphs down.

There also is a sentence missing a period, it starts with Pliny the Younger and is a few paragraphs below the "an historian" sentence.

The chapter is kinda long so I haven't read it all yet.

It's cool, and I feel like I've read this before because I have read all of your posts over the years.

One thing that stands out as a red flag to me is, I've only read a little bit so far and already you keep making these sweeping statements about how some historians and people feel about certain topics/facts but there is nothing cited to back up these things. Writing, especially this kind, is so much stronger when you can either have your sources quoted to make your point or, if you say it yourself, that you have footnotes to verify the facts. I know you know this, I just wonder if you don't realize some of your prose takes some things for granted and isn't attributed.

I know you attributed a lot and quoted a lot, but I think there are a lot of times where you say something like, "many scholars claim" instead of just saying, Biblical scholar Bart Erhman's studies led him to believe X. "I found that X is true because when I was there I saw X," Ehrman wrote in his peer-reviewed book on Jeebus.

It's just stronger and I'm trying to help.

I've been an editor and publisher of non-fiction for nearly three decades.

Check out my now-defunct atheism blog. It's just a blog, no ads, no revenue, no gods.
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