2) John the Baptist.
3) Mary Magdala.
5) When Jesus was crucified, his cross had the letters I.N.R.I. on it. That is short for
In Nomine Romanum Imperium (In the name of the Roman Empire).
6) When Judas Iscariot left the group, he was immediately
labeled a traitor and an enemy of Jesus. Much later it was also rumored that it was him who was responsible for the capture of Jesus, but that is not true. It's typical
for all sects and cults to see apostates as enemies and traitors.
8) 2 Kings 2: 1-12. That name later evolved into Gilgal-tha and Golgotha. In actuality, there has never
been a place called Golgotha or Gilgal-tha in Jerusalem. Later the verses 15-16 gave the disciples the idea to believe in a "Holy Spirit".
9) "Yahve Is My God" is the meaning of the Hebrew word Eliyahu (Elijah).
10) In religious sects that face an unexpected event not compatible with their original framework of beliefs it is common for the followers to restructure their beliefs to avoid cognitive dissonance.
The cognitive dissonance that Jesus' followers faced was caused by two conflicting cognitions: "Jesus is the Anointed One who will save Israel from the Romans" and "Jesus is dead". The old prophesy from the Second Book of Kings helped the followers
solve the conflict by offering an alternative interpretation to the situation: "Jesus is dead, but that is what was supposed to happen to the Savior".
See Wikipedia for more information on the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger.
- A Young Man With a Passion
- Yeshua And The Twelve
- The Most Beloved Disciple
- The Night of The Soldiers
- "He Wasn't The Messenger of Yahve!"
- Old Prophesy, New Hope
- Further reading
The Bible portrays Jesus as a magnificent Son of God to whom nothing was impossible.
According to the gospels, he performed miracles, cured the sick and was morally perfect. Yet, he also lived as an ordinary man among ordinary men and women.
What was this man really like? What was his childhood like? What were his earthly parents like? What really happened when he died?
What made people believe he resurrected? Where is his tomb?
The birth of Christianity is an extraordinary story, which has not been portrayed thoroughly from a secular point of view before.
Here is an attempt at that, but first, some important factors concerning our sources:
- Pseudepigraphy. Pseudepigraphy means the custom of attributing a text to a person who has not actually written it.
This is the case with many of the letters in the New Testament, as well as with the gospels. When the gospels were written,
the authors (individuals or groups) did not see a need for a title. All the gospels were merely "Good news about Jesus". The titles
were added much later, when it became important to distinguish the widely accepted ones from the gospels that the majority
considered unorthodox or even heretic. The names of the four gospels in the New Testament are not the names of the authors, but the names that
the contemporaries found most suitable based on the content of each gospel.
- The Gospels chosen into the New Testament. One should also know, that the gospels
that were chosen into the New Testament, were the ones that the majority of the 4th century clergy felt were the best depictions of Jesus, based on who they thought Jesus had been. The
decision on which gospels to canonize (include in the New Testament) was not unanimous.
- Dating the gospels in the New Testament. The order in which the four gospels are in the New Testament is not a
chronological order. The first written gospel of these four is the gospel of Mark, which was written approximately 40 years
after the death of Jesus (around the year 70). The gospel writers did not hurry writing down the life of Jesus, because they expected his
immediate return. The second oldest gospel is the gospel of Matthew. It was written using the
gospel of Mark as the primary source. The gospel of Luke was written using both of these gospels as sources. For more information
on the origins of these three synoptic gospels, see the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis. The gospel of John
was written much later than the synoptic gospels.
- Saul of Tarsus wrote the first Christian documents. These so-called Pauline letters tell very little about the details
concerning Jesus' life, even less than the somewhat twenty years later gospels.
- More details, less accurate. The amount of details in the gospels should not increase as time passes. If the newer version of a story contains more
information than the older version, it is likely that the newer version was edited without proper knowledge of the events and could contain fictional elements.
- "The Messiah does this in the prophesies, so Jesus must have done this". Many of the events linked to Jesus, like the feeding
miracle (see 2 Kings 4: 42-44) or the trampling of the sea (see Psalm 107: 28-30), are not historical events but events that the gospel writers believed Jesus must have done. They believed him
to be the Messiah, so they believed he had done everything that the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would do.
- The Roman influence. The gospels could very well have been written by Roman professional writers since
by the time they were written, Christianity had already arrived in Rome. The infancy gospels
of Matthew and Luke, for example, reflect basic Roman hero myth literature.
- The Resurrection. The earliest gospel, the gospel of Mark originally ends in verse 16: 8*, where the women have found the empty tomb but have not seen Jesus appear to them. Later generations then wrote a longer ending to the story to answer the criticism of "how do we know someone didn't steal the body?". Because of this criticism a guard was placed on the tomb in the following gospels. In the gospel of Peter this guard even has a name "Petronius" and the tomb is sealed with seven seals to prevent entry (See verses 30-33). However, even the information about finding an empty tomb can very well be an answer to the criticism of "How do you know he was taken into heaven?" since the story in itself is dubious in several ways: 1. The names of the women who visit the tomb vary in all gospels, 2. crucified criminals were not buried in separate graves but mass graves and 3. it is not plausible that the women would go to embalm a body that had been in a grave for three days already.
I've used the original Hebrew
names of all the characters involved. The English names are present in the marginal to the right. The right marginal also includes some interesting information
that would cause fluency problems if placed inside the text itself. In some details I've used my artistic freedom. These details, however, should not be crucial to the story.
Yeshua¹ was born around the year 4 BCE. He was born into a family of several children. His life was changed
dramatically on the day when his father left the family and their mother, who was now forced to make a living by herself. Being abandoned by his father and seeing the hardships her mother had to face, Yeshua became aware of the grim realities of life at a very young age.
He saw how people were forced to do
sinful deeds just because they had no other choice. He understood how evil deeds were consequences and not indicators of a person's evil nature. He came to believe that the worst sin was indifference towards the people close to you.
In Yeshua's view, the Roman occupation was a sign that Yahve had turned his back on the Israelis for their lack of compassion.
In his youth Yeshua met a preacher called Yohannas². Yohannas shared Yeshua's belief that the Roman occupation was a sign that Israel was on an evil path.
Yohannas believed that if the whole of Israel changed their ways, the Roman might would immediately be brought down. Yohannas baptized all who came to him and heard his message.
Yeshua took the baptism as well. He joined Yohannas's, who was also called "the Baptist", group when he was in his twenties.
Image courtesy of FreeBibleIllustrations.com
Yohannas acquired a large crowd of followers unhappy with the Roman occupation.
When the Romans heard of Yohannas's group, they thought it was planning a riot. They had Yohannas captured and the group was divided. Yohannas was kept in captivity until he was
eventually executed as an enemy of Rome.
After Yohannas' death Yeshua took over his mission. He was convinced that Yahve had chosen him to carry Yohannas' message. He started preaching love, compassion and the sanctity of marriage - values that had meant the most to Yohannas. By this time Yeshua had embraced the idea that the worst transgressors were the rich who didn't share their wealth with those who had nothing, and the men
who left their wives and families.
When Yeshua's mother heard of his mission, she thought he had gone mad. Yeshua was hurt by this but he was certain of the will of Yahve, and so he cut ties with his mother. He told people that he had no mother
and that his followers should cut ties with their parents and instead commit themselves completely to Yahve. The group that was following Yeshua became his family.
Yeshua differed from the other prophesying preachers of his time by not refraining himself
from eating or drinking. He enjoyed life fully, and only abstained himself from hatred and other thoughts he considerd unrighteous.
He didn't even follow the life style of Yohannas who was said to only eat honey from wild bees.
Because of Yeshua's ordinary habits, people called him a glutton and a drunkard.
They didn't expect a prophet to behave like he did and so they didn't believe his message.
Yeshua traveled around the country for a few years and acquired a following of 20 to 30 people. These followers were people who took his word as the word of Yahve and left their homes and livelihoods,
taking only their families with them to follow this charismatic speaker. Yeshua believed that twelve of his closest
followers would be the twelve kings of the new Israel, which would emerge when all of Israel heard Yeshua's message about charity as the greatest commandment.
Yeshua believed that twelve of his followers would be the twelve new kings of Israel.
The twelve followers Yeshua was most fond of, were his most passionate followers. They too believed
that the Roman occupation was a clear sign of Yahve's anger. They believed Yeshua
to be a messenger of Yahve just like the prophets of the Scriptures they had heard stories of.
They also believed Yeshua had healing powers because many people had been healed after Yeshua had visited them.
These followers expected something remarkable to happen soon.
During his years preaching Yeshua also met a prostitute called Miriam³, to whom he gave
the surname Magdala, "great and elevated". He felt extreme sympathy for this woman. Most of Yeshua's followers suspected Miriam's suitability to be part of the group, but Yeshua insisted that Miriam be treated with respect.
Miriam reminded Yeshua of his mother: a pure-hearted woman who had become a victim of circumstances. Miriam also held Yeshua in high regard. Yeshua treated her better than anyone before.
She joined Yeshua's group and the two became very close. Among Yeshua's followers, Miriam got the nickname
'the most beloved disciple'4.
Yeshua and Miriam had a deep relationship.
Yeshua's most devoted follower and closest friend besides Magdala was Simeon, who Yeshua gave a name referring to
Cephas, "rock". Cephas had become a follower of Yeshua after he saw his ill mother-in-law heal the day after
Yeshua's visit. Cephas believed Yeshua to be a true messenger of Yahve, who would save Israel from the Romans.
became convinced of Yeshua's healing powers when his mother-in-law was healed after Yeshua had visited her.
The Romans heard of Yeshua and his "twelve kings" when the group arrived in Jerusalem between the years 26 and 36. The Romans wanted to prevent all possible commotions and captured Yeshua for questioning on suspicion of planning a revolt against the Roman empire.
Image courtesy of FreeBibleIllustrations.com
Yeshua was captured for planning a revolt against the Roman empire.
This event was a massive shock to Yeshua's followers who now had to hide, so that they would not be captured.
They couldn't believe how the man they so loved and believed to be a chosen messenger of Yahve could be caught by the Romans.
They went into hiding to wait news of Yeshua's release.
For days Yeshua's followers prayed and waited news about their charismatic leader. When the news finally
came, the group was devastated. A man, working for the Romans, Yosef of Arimathea, told them that Yeshua had been sentenced to death by a brutal
roman custom: crucifixion. He told them that Yeshua had been nailed from his hands and feet to a wooden cross charged with crimes against the Roman Empire5.
Image courtesy of FreeBibleIllustrations.com
When Yeshua was crucified, none of his followers were present.
They had to hide so that they wouldn't be captured. A reliable source told them about Yeshua's death.
The news about Yeshua's death spiraled the group into inner chaos. Some denied the news saying it was
impossible. Some accused themselves for this horrible incident: "We did something wrong, and now
Yahve has punished our lord". Some of the followers left the group saying
that Yeshua was a false prophet and not a true messenger of Yahve. One of those who left the
group was Yudah who Yeshua had called Iscariot, "the man from Kerioth".6
In Yeshua's absence Cephas became the leader of the group. People now looked to
answers but he felt lost and confused, too.
After days of confusion and chaos, Yeshua's most beloved disciple Miriam was in a synagogue
praying and looking for answers when she heard the Second Book of Kings being read. In this scripture there
is a prophesy of how the prophet Eliyahu7 is taken up to heaven by Yahve after
he leaves a place called Gilgal8. Miriam took this prophesy in her heart and contemplated on it.
On the night of the next day she had a revelation: "This prophesy must speak about Yeshua!".
She finally found hope.
She believed that Yeshua had suffered the fate prophesied to Eliyahu.
She felt ecstatic and ran to Cephas.
Miriam then told Cephas what she had just learned. Cephas, who had felt as if his whole world had collapsed after the news of
Yeshua's death now found something to hang on to. For days he had been disappointed in himself for not knowing what to do or what to say to the others,
but now everything seemed to fall into place. His eyes opened to all the things Yeshua had said before. "Yes, he must have
been Yahve Is My God9!"
Cephas gathered all the others and told them to rejoice: "Yeshua is alive! He was taken up to heaven!"
The others were doubtful at first, but Cephas' firm belief made them convinced about Yeshua's resurrection. By believing in the resurrection, the followers gained consonance: They had not left their previous lives (to which they could no longer return) for nothing, and
they once again found purpose in their lives.10
And so began the story of Christianity. The message of Yeshua's resurrection spread like a wild fire
and the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in the year 70 only added interest towards this charismatic man revered by his followers. Unlike in any other religion before,
every Christian was a messenger and a missionary, who told people
this extraordinary story and asked them, too, to follow the teachings of Yeshua.
The Atheist New Testament by http://www.thete.fi/gos.html is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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- Capps, D 2000. Jesus: A psychological biography.
- Capps, D 2001. “Sundén’s role-taking theory: The case of John Henry Newman and
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