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How political was Jesus? His historical life has never been transparent

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images)


December 24, 2022   7 mins

Blaise Pascal is right to have jotted in one of his baroque notebooks that Jesus lived “in such obscurity
 that historians writing of important matters of state hardly noticed him”. And Erich Auerbach is right to have stressed in a book he wrote in Istanbul, exiled from Hitler’s Reich, that Jesus’s death was “a provincial incident”. This is what makes it so remarkable that the life and death of an impoverished Galilean rabbi are described in a number of non-Christian texts from the first centuries of our era.

Jesus’s first non-Christian mention may be found in a Syrian philosopher’s letter, The Letter of Mara bar Sarapion, which was rediscovered in the 19th century but is vexingly hard to date. One eminent historian, Fergus Millar, concluded that this Letter was likely written as early as 73AD. This would make it roughly contemporary with the first gospels to be written.

Though Millar’s dating is contested, Mara’s Letter is certainly a pagan text of the first or second century AD. In it, both Socrates and Jesus are seen as belonging to an august history of philosopher-martyrs. Mara thinks that it is human error which led to their deaths, and to the devastation of the cities in which they died:

“What can we say, when wise men are forcibly dragged by the hands of tyrants, and their wisdom is taken captive by slander? 
 For what benefit did the Athenians derive from the slaying of Socrates? They received the retribution for it in the form of famine … Or the Judaeans [from the slaying] of their wise king? From that very time their sovereignty was taken away …. [Yet] Socrates did not die, because of Plato 
 nor did the wise king [die], because of the new laws that he gave.”

There is nothing necessarily untoward about Mara’s notion of divine nemesis. A Cynic philosopher, Dio of Prusa, similarly holds that Socrates’s death was the cause of the Athenians’ later misfortunes. And a Judaean historian, Josephus (on whom more in a moment), reports that many Judaeans viewed Herod Antipas’s humiliating defeat in 36AD, by a Nabatean king, as divine retribution for his murder of John the Baptist. For a first or second-century philosopher such as Mara, “killing the philosophers” was a recurring drama which led to the gods’ destruction of Mediterranean cities. And for early Christians (and many Judaeans), “killing the prophets” was a recurring drama which included John the Baptist and Jesus, and which brought down judgement on the cities of Galilee and Judaea.

We see that Mara’s Jesus has Syrian features by glancing at a second-century text by Lucian of Samosata. This dazzling Syrian satirist refers to “the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced new mysteries into the world”. Note that Jesus’s crime, here, is innovation. The gospels do not mention innovation as one of the crimes with which Jesus was charged, but Socrates was found guilty of introducing “new divinities”. Like Mara, then, Lucian seems to constellate the deaths of Socrates and Jesus. What is more, Lucian — like Mara — seems to see Jesus as a sort of lawgiver. As he writes about Syria’s Christians:

“Their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore, they despise all things indiscriminately and hold them to be common property.”

For Lucian, Jesus is a crucified sophist and the first lawgiver of the Christians. For Mara, he is a wise king who was put to death, but not before he had promulgated new laws. This slight Syrian archive suggests that pagan intellectuals in Roman Syria had come to know, by the late second century, that Jesus had been put to death — like Socrates — as a political criminal. Yet it is not entirely clear who put him to death. For Mara it is Judaeans, and for Lucian it is Romans. When their brief lines on Jesus are read in conjunction, we might suspect that both Judaeans and Romans had a hand in the death of the Christians’ new lawgiver.

Early Roman mentions of Jesus are few, but we can relate them in interesting ways to our Syrian archive. It is the historian Tacitus who settles the question of who sentenced Jesus. “In the reign of Tiberius”, he reports, Jesus was “executed 
 by the procurator Pontius Pilate”. This graphs neatly onto what we read in numerous early Christian texts and formulas. It is significant, too, that Tacitus calls Pilate’s convict Christ, and not Jesus. This is a point of commonality in the early Roman texts which mention him.

In Pliny the Younger’s collection of letters, for instance, we find several charming ones addressed to his friend Tacitus. But his most-cited is a letter he sent to Rome’s “lord” (dominus), Trajan, from a province on the Black Sea which Pliny administered in the early second century. He informs Trajan that the Christians there “come together before dawn on a fixed day” — surely the first day of the week — “to chant songs 
 in honour of Christ, as if to a god”. For Pliny, as for Tacitus, Jesus bears a Latin title, Christus.

This is logical, since the Romans sentenced him as a messianic “king” — in Latin, a Christus. It is with Tacitus’s Christus (crucified by Pilate), and with Pliny’s Christus (revered as a god), both in mind that we turn to the third Roman text on Jesus, by Suetonius. I have mentioned that Pliny and Tacitus were friends; so, too, were Pliny and Suetonius. If Tacitus and Pliny call Jesus Christus, then Suetonius should, too. And he seems to — nearly. For, in his life of Claudius, Suetonius writes: “Since the Judaeans [in Rome] were always making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.”

Is Suetonius’s Chrestus the Christus referred to by his friends, Tacitus and Pliny? There is a considerable literature on this question. On the one hand, Chrestus might be Jesus. For a Christ-related expulsion of Judaeans from Rome, circa 49AD, is noted in the New Testament. “Claudius”, we read, “ordered all the Judaeans to leave Rome” (Acts of the Apostles 18:2). What is more, early Christians tell us that some Roman bureaucrats softened the Greek-derived Christian into a more-Latin-sounding Chrestian (Latin Christianus, Chrestianus).

But on the other hand, Chrestus might not be Jesus. For nothing in Suetonius’s wording suggests that this “instigator” is 20 years’ dead. The meaning of Suetonius’ text, then, is unclear. What we do know is that during the first years of the second century, the names Christus–Chrestus denote a man crucified in Judaea by Pilate (Tacitus), a man reverenced in Asia as a god (Pliny), and a man known in Rome to be a source of unrest (Suetonius).

Glancing back at our Syrian texts we can ask: What are Christians thought to have derived from Jesus? Mara talks of laws, Lucian of mysteries, and Suetonius of a “new superstition”. There is one eye-catching commonality, however. The laws are new, the mysteries are new, and the superstition is new. “The man who was crucified in Palestine”, as Lucian calls him, seems to be the figure of something new.

Perhaps the most valuable Judaean text on Jesus (outside the New Testament) is by Josephus, or Yosef ben Mattityahu — a Jerusalem native with convoluted ties to Galilee. It is known as Josephus’s Testimony (Testimonium Flavianum) and it is found in a huge book that he composed for Roman elites circa 90 AD. In some sense, then, Josephus’s book is neither Judaean nor pagan — but both. It is in a uniquely Judaeo-Roman chronicle that Jesus is said to have been accused by Judaean elites and crucified by a Roman prefect.

Now, the integrity of this Testimony has been doubted since the 16th century. It seems clear that a Christian hand (or hands) corrupted the received text. To my mind, however, this Testimony was credibly restored in the 19th century. Here is a modern reconstruction of what Josephus wrote in Greek:

“At about this time lived Jesus, a wise man. He did marvellous (or strange) things, a teacher of those who receive the truth (or novelties) with pleasure. He attracted many Judaeans and many of the Hellenes. Upon an indictment brought by the leading men among us, Pilate sentenced him to the cross. But those who had loved him from the very first did not cease to do so, and to this very day the brotherhood of the Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

Crucially, this Testimony is not only found in Josephus’ Greek manuscripts. There is an Arabic version, too, in the Universal History written by a 10th-century Syrian bishop, Agapius of Manbij. And intriguingly, Agapius links the death of Jesus to the history of philosophy. For he tells us that he had “found in many books of the philosophers that they refer to the day of crucifixion of Christ, and that they marvel at it”. One of the writers that Agapius cites is “Josephus the Hebrew”. This is Josephus’s Testimony in Arabic tradition:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Judaeans and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Christ, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”

We can see that Jesus is called a “wise man” (as in the Greek Testimony); his disciples are drawn “from among the Judaeans and the other nations” (as in the Greek); and that although he is “known to be virtuous”, Pilate condemns him (as in the Greek). In both the Greek and Arabic traditions of Josephus, Jesus belongs to a sombre history in which, as one 4th-century Christian puts it, “the whole world 
 persecutes good and just men as if they were evil and impious — torturing, condemning, and killing them”.

Where does this bring us? Recollections of Jesus are divided in Syrian, Roman, and Judaean texts of the first two centuries of our era. For Mara, he is a philosopher; for Lucian, a sophist. For Pliny, he is a sort of numen; for Tacitus, a dead convict. And for Josephus, he is a wise man.

Even the pagan deities are divided. “The gods have pronounced Christ to have been most holy,” according to one Syrian (and intensely anti-Christian) philosopher, Porphyry. There is backing for this in surviving oracles. The night-goddess Hecate calls Jesus “a supremely righteous man”. In contrast, Apollo derides him as a “deluded” figure, one who was compelled “to die cruelly by the worst of deaths”.

What are we to make of this impoverished Galilean rabbi whom a god called “deluded” and a goddess called “supremely righteous”, and who everyone knows suffered “the worst of deaths”? Twenty-one centuries later, much still hangs on how we answer this question.


David Lloyd Dusenbury is a philosopher and historian of ideas. His latest book, I Judge No One: A Political Life of Jesus, is out now.

DusenburyDavid

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Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago

In the first chapter of the book of John, John the Baptist declares upon seeing Jesus the first time “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, alluding back to the Jewish sacrificial system of lambs and bulls. Then when speaking on the law of God in Matthew 5 Jesus declares “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 
If we see Christ’s mission on earth as the salvation of all of Adam’s offspring, by obeying where Adam failed to, and dying the death that all our sins deserve, then fulfilling the law in our nature to attain heaven where the first Adam failed, then a lot of things make sense with his lack of interest in this worlds politics. 
Even after his resurrection the disciples weren’t waiting for the Holy Spirit to come to help them transform Jerusalem into an earthly utopia by partnering with or influencing the political rulers of their day. 
Perhaps instead of being about politics, Jesus came to do just what he said he came to do. Perhaps the bible is actually true in verses like John 3:16 and 6:47 and when we rest our hope on him to save us from our sins and bring us into eternity, it’s all true! 
Merry Christmas Unherd people! It’s all true!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

Excellent Post!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

…”back into eternity”? That makes sense: away from the madness of the (sinful) world into the timeless being of the soul. Enlightenment?

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

“Jesus declares “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” … Then would you agree that Jesus did not intend to create a new religion but to invite others to partake of his ? I consider the meaning of Jesus’s life as an invitation to the Gentile into Jacob’s tent.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

It was perhaps the direct opposite: a invitation to devout, soulful Jews to leave the nasty, belligerent, corrupt and narrow-minded ‘tent’ to see the light of truth and find a more authentic way!

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

I don’t disagree with you, and consider it a reasonable wish that Christianity had remained part of Judaism, as it was during the first century or so. But given the hostility of the then Jewish establishment toward Jesus (and the politics of the Roman era), separation may have been inevitable.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

It was perhaps the direct opposite: a invitation to devout, soulful Jews to leave the nasty, belligerent, corrupt and narrow-minded ‘tent’ to see the light of truth and find a more authentic way!

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

I don’t disagree with you, and consider it a reasonable wish that Christianity had remained part of Judaism, as it was during the first century or so. But given the hostility of the then Jewish establishment toward Jesus (and the politics of the Roman era), separation may have been inevitable.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

…”If we see Christ’s mission on earth as the salvation of all of Adam’s offspring, by obeying where Adam failed to, and dying the death that all our sins deserve, then fulfilling the law in our nature to attain heaven where the first Adam failed, then a lot of things make sense with his lack of interest in this worlds politics. ” … I hope you don’t mean that Jews must believe in the divinity of Christ to be “perfected”. Jews are in Covenant with God and always have been. And … the ideal of obedience is, after all, an ideal.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Is it not a great pity then that Israel is so disobedient to UN humanitarian resolultions and so neglectful of God’s command to love. If the US is the Great Satan then perhaps Zionists (though not all Jews by any means) have changed sides?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Oh dear oh dear. Firstly, Jews are not Christians, and secondly the Jews are under no religious or legal obligation to agree to ‘love’ their avowed enemies or to agree to the piecemeal or otherwise destruction of their state.

I wonder exactly why so many westerners are so terribly understanding of suicide bombers, mass murderers, indiscriminate rocket launchers, misogynists, homophobes (killing them, not saying nasty words!) etc etc while entirely lacking a scintilla of the same understanding for Jewish people, institutions and state. Or even the lesser sins of the cynical propagation of anti-Semitic propaganda by Arab governments (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is alive and widespread in the Middle East) and the diversion of their population onto the Palestinian issue rather than provide good government for them.

And then there is the total ignorance (at the very best) or sinister double standards (tad more neutral) and outright anti Semitism (at worse) in the comparisons (or rather, not) between Israel and other states who commit massively greater violations of human rights without a peep out of anyone. A full scale Turkish military assault on the Kurds – yawn!

Ryan K
Ryan K
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

WOW….so now I don’t have to post, except this….you really said it all….what hypocrisy and double standards today…and blindness.and ignorance…I see that in the response of young women in keffiyah head scarves at Radio City….complete indifference to the suffering of raped and butchered women while screaming “Genocide Joe” and some hysterical white woman screaming “blood on your hands” dragged out of Radio City having paid her ticket to do this ….the ongoing war against the Kurds in Syria, in Iran…the occupation of Cyprus , of Tibet, the Uighurs , persecution of Christians ….the Rohynga….yes YAWN>

Ryan K
Ryan K
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

WOW….so now I don’t have to post, except this….you really said it all….what hypocrisy and double standards today…and blindness.and ignorance…I see that in the response of young women in keffiyah head scarves at Radio City….complete indifference to the suffering of raped and butchered women while screaming “Genocide Joe” and some hysterical white woman screaming “blood on your hands” dragged out of Radio City having paid her ticket to do this ….the ongoing war against the Kurds in Syria, in Iran…the occupation of Cyprus , of Tibet, the Uighurs , persecution of Christians ….the Rohynga….yes YAWN>

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Oh dear oh dear. Firstly, Jews are not Christians, and secondly the Jews are under no religious or legal obligation to agree to ‘love’ their avowed enemies or to agree to the piecemeal or otherwise destruction of their state.

I wonder exactly why so many westerners are so terribly understanding of suicide bombers, mass murderers, indiscriminate rocket launchers, misogynists, homophobes (killing them, not saying nasty words!) etc etc while entirely lacking a scintilla of the same understanding for Jewish people, institutions and state. Or even the lesser sins of the cynical propagation of anti-Semitic propaganda by Arab governments (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is alive and widespread in the Middle East) and the diversion of their population onto the Palestinian issue rather than provide good government for them.

And then there is the total ignorance (at the very best) or sinister double standards (tad more neutral) and outright anti Semitism (at worse) in the comparisons (or rather, not) between Israel and other states who commit massively greater violations of human rights without a peep out of anyone. A full scale Turkish military assault on the Kurds – yawn!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Is it not a great pity then that Israel is so disobedient to UN humanitarian resolultions and so neglectful of God’s command to love. If the US is the Great Satan then perhaps Zionists (though not all Jews by any means) have changed sides?

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

Excellent Post!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

…”back into eternity”? That makes sense: away from the madness of the (sinful) world into the timeless being of the soul. Enlightenment?

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

“Jesus declares “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” … Then would you agree that Jesus did not intend to create a new religion but to invite others to partake of his ? I consider the meaning of Jesus’s life as an invitation to the Gentile into Jacob’s tent.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve White

…”If we see Christ’s mission on earth as the salvation of all of Adam’s offspring, by obeying where Adam failed to, and dying the death that all our sins deserve, then fulfilling the law in our nature to attain heaven where the first Adam failed, then a lot of things make sense with his lack of interest in this worlds politics. ” … I hope you don’t mean that Jews must believe in the divinity of Christ to be “perfected”. Jews are in Covenant with God and always have been. And … the ideal of obedience is, after all, an ideal.

Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago

In the first chapter of the book of John, John the Baptist declares upon seeing Jesus the first time “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, alluding back to the Jewish sacrificial system of lambs and bulls. Then when speaking on the law of God in Matthew 5 Jesus declares “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 
If we see Christ’s mission on earth as the salvation of all of Adam’s offspring, by obeying where Adam failed to, and dying the death that all our sins deserve, then fulfilling the law in our nature to attain heaven where the first Adam failed, then a lot of things make sense with his lack of interest in this worlds politics. 
Even after his resurrection the disciples weren’t waiting for the Holy Spirit to come to help them transform Jerusalem into an earthly utopia by partnering with or influencing the political rulers of their day. 
Perhaps instead of being about politics, Jesus came to do just what he said he came to do. Perhaps the bible is actually true in verses like John 3:16 and 6:47 and when we rest our hope on him to save us from our sins and bring us into eternity, it’s all true! 
Merry Christmas Unherd people! It’s all true!

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

I have little doubt that a teacher named Jesus (Christ) lived and died on the cross. What I find perplexing is that it appears that none of these almost contemporary commentators make any reference to his surely most revolutionary contention – namely that those who follow his teachings could enjoy eternal life.

Many of the Christian teachings mirror those of the Stoics and other philosophers – but the offer of a means to conquer death seems something of a standout singularity for Christianity to me – and I find it curious these other ancient sources seemingly made no mention of it. It also leads me to wonder if it was a later elaboration of disciples of the new Christian religion. The views of other readers would be welcome.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

It could, for instance, reflect the core Egyptian belief of eternal life, substituting recitation of the Book of the Dead for judgment by the saints at the gates of heaven in Christian belief. Egyptian culture was dominant in the eastern Mediterranean world, and was magnified by the power of the Ptolemies.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 year ago

Or it could reflect the fact that someone, uniquely, did in fact, rise from the dead.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 year ago

Or it could reflect the fact that someone, uniquely, did in fact, rise from the dead.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

I had thought the Old Testament had different heavens, Saints could go there even if it was not the final destination of all, and that it may be Jesus was extending this to all who have faith, and that the concept was widely understood.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Your interpretation is something like mine. Rather than look too carefully at every little remark concerning his life, I prefer to view the meaning of his life as an invitation into Jacob’s tent. Jesus wasn’t, in my view, and in the view of many Jews, trying to set up a new religion. And it’s a pity that in trying so hard to distinguish Christianity from Judaism, the Christians miss out of much of the joy and beauty of Judaism. Trading Jewish law and the concept of redemption for salvation and a holy spirit isn’t the best bargain.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Your interpretation is something like mine. Rather than look too carefully at every little remark concerning his life, I prefer to view the meaning of his life as an invitation into Jacob’s tent. Jesus wasn’t, in my view, and in the view of many Jews, trying to set up a new religion. And it’s a pity that in trying so hard to distinguish Christianity from Judaism, the Christians miss out of much of the joy and beauty of Judaism. Trading Jewish law and the concept of redemption for salvation and a holy spirit isn’t the best bargain.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Since Jesus disappears from canonical texts between the ages of 12 and 30, some have theorized that for a time he went further East, where things like re-incarnation or the “non-binding death” of Nirvana were common beliefs. The Greeks had a notion of transmigration of souls and the underworld of Hades. Pre-Columbian peoples also had ideas of a Great Beyond of some kind, suggesting such beliefs are very ancient and general to humankind. So, while the specific notion of an eternal paradise may have been distinct, the very idea of an indefinite afterlife would not have been, at least to people who’d travelled or met travelers, or the rarer sort who were literate in the 1st Century CE. I would also welcome clarification or pushback.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sounds plausible me.. the notion of eternal life (timeless life of the soul) seems to be hardwired into all of us.. even the atheists who can think of nothing to do with their lives except contemplate the nonexistence of God.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sounds plausible me.. the notion of eternal life (timeless life of the soul) seems to be hardwired into all of us.. even the atheists who can think of nothing to do with their lives except contemplate the nonexistence of God.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

A few points:
1. The Apostles had a notion that eternal life was for a few and so might have thought it N/A to the masses?
2. It is possible that belief in eternal life was ubiquitous anyway and so taken as read?
3. Jesus’s teachings on ‘eternal life’ were more complex than the notion of ‘afterlife’, ie that eternal life is available (via the very things referred to in the article) in the here and now as well as in the eternal. Indeed there is only one eternal (timeless) life and that is the life (being) of the soul. This may have eluded the scholars referred to.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Ah for me the stand out novelty of Jesus and this new religion was its treatment of non-believers – as people to be loved even as non-believers and people who would be saved for eternity by merely expressing their new belief and repenting their sins in a single statement. And that’s why the establishment couldn’t tolerate them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

But the words of Jesus himself call for a much deeper, active commitment than the disembodied theological claims of John, Paul, and “date I was saved” Fundamentalists would suggest. For instance: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” and “these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.
Taking up the cross in the way Jesus advocated is not merely symbolic–and accomplished once and for all by a statement of faith/confession–nor necessarily a literal self-sacrifice, but living a life of profound compassion and unwavering service to others. Have I done this myself? Not even close, but that’s how I read and felt the message that Jesus himself delivered.
People who have been re-born in the Gospel sense are to be known not by their by their words, creeds, or even actions in and of themselves, but by their fruits.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

But the words of Jesus himself call for a much deeper, active commitment than the disembodied theological claims of John, Paul, and “date I was saved” Fundamentalists would suggest. For instance: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” and “these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.
Taking up the cross in the way Jesus advocated is not merely symbolic–and accomplished once and for all by a statement of faith/confession–nor necessarily a literal self-sacrifice, but living a life of profound compassion and unwavering service to others. Have I done this myself? Not even close, but that’s how I read and felt the message that Jesus himself delivered.
People who have been re-born in the Gospel sense are to be known not by their by their words, creeds, or even actions in and of themselves, but by their fruits.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

When considering how the church or early followers of Jesus might have corrupted the original message and mission of Jesus, we should always take into account how much they staked (stook? :D) on their putative “elaborations”. It’s one thing to make miraculous claims for a new philosophy and then escape on a late train out of town; it’s quite another to face torture and death and still maintain those claims. They saw what they saw and heard what they heard, and were willing to die on that hill.

Mark Gregory
Mark Gregory
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

Invested?

Mark Gregory
Mark Gregory
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

Invested?

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

It could, for instance, reflect the core Egyptian belief of eternal life, substituting recitation of the Book of the Dead for judgment by the saints at the gates of heaven in Christian belief. Egyptian culture was dominant in the eastern Mediterranean world, and was magnified by the power of the Ptolemies.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

I had thought the Old Testament had different heavens, Saints could go there even if it was not the final destination of all, and that it may be Jesus was extending this to all who have faith, and that the concept was widely understood.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Since Jesus disappears from canonical texts between the ages of 12 and 30, some have theorized that for a time he went further East, where things like re-incarnation or the “non-binding death” of Nirvana were common beliefs. The Greeks had a notion of transmigration of souls and the underworld of Hades. Pre-Columbian peoples also had ideas of a Great Beyond of some kind, suggesting such beliefs are very ancient and general to humankind. So, while the specific notion of an eternal paradise may have been distinct, the very idea of an indefinite afterlife would not have been, at least to people who’d travelled or met travelers, or the rarer sort who were literate in the 1st Century CE. I would also welcome clarification or pushback.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

A few points:
1. The Apostles had a notion that eternal life was for a few and so might have thought it N/A to the masses?
2. It is possible that belief in eternal life was ubiquitous anyway and so taken as read?
3. Jesus’s teachings on ‘eternal life’ were more complex than the notion of ‘afterlife’, ie that eternal life is available (via the very things referred to in the article) in the here and now as well as in the eternal. Indeed there is only one eternal (timeless) life and that is the life (being) of the soul. This may have eluded the scholars referred to.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Ah for me the stand out novelty of Jesus and this new religion was its treatment of non-believers – as people to be loved even as non-believers and people who would be saved for eternity by merely expressing their new belief and repenting their sins in a single statement. And that’s why the establishment couldn’t tolerate them.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

When considering how the church or early followers of Jesus might have corrupted the original message and mission of Jesus, we should always take into account how much they staked (stook? :D) on their putative “elaborations”. It’s one thing to make miraculous claims for a new philosophy and then escape on a late train out of town; it’s quite another to face torture and death and still maintain those claims. They saw what they saw and heard what they heard, and were willing to die on that hill.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

I have little doubt that a teacher named Jesus (Christ) lived and died on the cross. What I find perplexing is that it appears that none of these almost contemporary commentators make any reference to his surely most revolutionary contention – namely that those who follow his teachings could enjoy eternal life.

Many of the Christian teachings mirror those of the Stoics and other philosophers – but the offer of a means to conquer death seems something of a standout singularity for Christianity to me – and I find it curious these other ancient sources seemingly made no mention of it. It also leads me to wonder if it was a later elaboration of disciples of the new Christian religion. The views of other readers would be welcome.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
1 year ago

Jesus, a solid dude.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

..never wrote a word, nor cut a record, nor appeared on TV but he’s got like 2bn followers!

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

He had a great impresario, Paul!

Peter Nugent
Peter Nugent
1 year ago

Every word of or about Jesus was rewritten many times. Perhaps more than one great impresario at work?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

I’m not a fan.. Paul had his good points but sanitising the message to suit Rome including the denigration of women I don’t like.. I think Paul might have been a touch misogynistic as well as sycophantic.. but who am I to judge the great St Paul eh?

Peter Nugent
Peter Nugent
1 year ago

Every word of or about Jesus was rewritten many times. Perhaps more than one great impresario at work?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

I’m not a fan.. Paul had his good points but sanitising the message to suit Rome including the denigration of women I don’t like.. I think Paul might have been a touch misogynistic as well as sycophantic.. but who am I to judge the great St Paul eh?

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

He had a great impresario, Paul!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

..never wrote a word, nor cut a record, nor appeared on TV but he’s got like 2bn followers!

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
1 year ago

Jesus, a solid dude.

Andy Fraser
Andy Fraser
1 year ago

It’s remarkable that intelligent historians decline to accept the New Testament documents as containing reliable eye-witness accounts of real historical events. The earliest date from around 50AD and I t’s likely that they were all circulating before the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. That means they were all around and being shared while tens of thousands of people could have rubbished them, had they been fictional or inaccurate. Perhaps some historians have an agenda.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Yes, Mark believed to be earliest I recollect reading. And Mark, Matthew derived from an earlier source often called the Q source believed based on eye witness accounts and handed down sayings. The Q source hugely debated by the real experts on the Historical Jesus as to how many of the statements in Mark & Matthew may be authentic.
Luke then written a little later, by someone (traditional deemed to be a scribe of Paul I think) and believed written in Rome as more sympathetic to Rome in some of the stories (like the soldier quenching Jesus’s thirst on the Cross). But with the sense the scribe must have had knowledge of the Q source too.
John being the enigma as v different in style. I’ve read believed to be closer to end of 1st century but some historians claiming it must be based on earlier different sources to Q.
It is fascinating. And the fact, whoever JC was, we still talk and debate what he stood for 2000yrs later arguably makes him one of the most remarkable figures of real history.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

We agree! Do see my riposte to the accusation of modern bias. Revelations was written some 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus is a more remote divinity – as per Pauline Christology – and the Jews are very very bad.. ‘nothing to do with us Guv!’ plead the tiny bands of Christians dotted around the Empire but far from the wasteland of Judea where the early church was wiped out.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

We agree! Do see my riposte to the accusation of modern bias. Revelations was written some 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus is a more remote divinity – as per Pauline Christology – and the Jews are very very bad.. ‘nothing to do with us Guv!’ plead the tiny bands of Christians dotted around the Empire but far from the wasteland of Judea where the early church was wiped out.

Marc Manley
Marc Manley
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Remarkable, perhaps. The most crucial (I am aware of the root of this word and the double-meaning here) “reliable eye-witness accounts of real historical events” are those of a literal resurrection. It either happened or it didn’t. If it did, then it provides explanation as to why those witnesses at the time, as well as witnesses even up to the present day who say they have truly encountered Jesus, would reveal the encounter via transformed lives, in word and deed.

If the resurrection did not occur, every single word said or written about Jesus is a waste of breath and ink. Paul understood this completely, as seen in 1 Corinthians 15. But also note he fully accepts and preaches the idea that this proclamation and acceptance of the good news of the resurrection is grounded in faith or belief.

If an intelligent historian has no belief that a resurrection is even possible, then I suppose they can’t be faulted for jumping through all manner of hoops to avoid, contradict, or explain away the eye-witness accounts. Of course there have been many intelligent people over the centuries who started out with unbelief, but then ultimately found it impossible to maintain that position once—they would say, in one way or another—they heard Jesus’ voice.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Marc Manley

My understanding of the Q source is most of the sayings Historians feel may be authentic relate to the things like the Sermon on the Mount, the Beautitudes and a number of the Parables.
Acts is believed to be earlier than Mark, and potentially has more in it from the actual Apostles. And of course Paul writes before any codification of the Gospels and knew most of the 12 before they fell out in the earliest schism.
I think you need to go and study some of the scholarship in this area. It’s often referred to as the Quest with different phases. Geza Vermes, Dominic Crossan, Meier etc. These aren’t theologians, they’re historians studying ancient texts and having a deep understanding of the languages JC and others used. So much can change in how things have been translated.
As i said, it is fascinating whether one is a believer or not. And of course regardless whoever he was, and whatever was fact or fiction, certainly had an impact.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Marc Manley

My understanding of the Q source is most of the sayings Historians feel may be authentic relate to the things like the Sermon on the Mount, the Beautitudes and a number of the Parables.
Acts is believed to be earlier than Mark, and potentially has more in it from the actual Apostles. And of course Paul writes before any codification of the Gospels and knew most of the 12 before they fell out in the earliest schism.
I think you need to go and study some of the scholarship in this area. It’s often referred to as the Quest with different phases. Geza Vermes, Dominic Crossan, Meier etc. These aren’t theologians, they’re historians studying ancient texts and having a deep understanding of the languages JC and others used. So much can change in how things have been translated.
As i said, it is fascinating whether one is a believer or not. And of course regardless whoever he was, and whatever was fact or fiction, certainly had an impact.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Historians do have an agenda – the facts. So, mythology, having a powerful influence on human culture, is another important study. Historians may be interested in St Paul, Julius Caesar, Pontius Pilate but not King Arthur, Robin hood, William Tell, Socrates or Jesus Christ. In fact, if it could be proved that Jesus Christ never existed, it would not alter Christianity one iota … it’s a Faith.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Prove a negative?

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Of all the people who never existed, some are more likely than others to have never existed.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Of all the people who never existed, some are more likely than others to have never existed.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Prove a negative?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

You underestimate the value and indeed the power of the oral tradition.. the art of the story teller was revered and would have been quite accurate (a storyteller lacking accuracy had a short career!)..
I will say truth was more important than accuracy and so if accuracy tended to give a distorted message some variation was essential to the process. In short, accounts did not have to be written to be valid.

Peter Nugent
Peter Nugent
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

How do you know they weren’t widely rubbished? But still believed by a core group whose message got out to the wider world, while the knowledgeable local criticisms didn’t.
Few texts would have been widespread in a time without printing or media.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Nugent

Yeah there was a pretty strong propaganda effort by the religion once it was organised, after the 2nd century, to stamp out or rubbish any texts that contradicted the texts that they had written themselves, as new interpretations of older texts, or that they had authorised.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Nugent

Yeah there was a pretty strong propaganda effort by the religion once it was organised, after the 2nd century, to stamp out or rubbish any texts that contradicted the texts that they had written themselves, as new interpretations of older texts, or that they had authorised.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Yes, Mark believed to be earliest I recollect reading. And Mark, Matthew derived from an earlier source often called the Q source believed based on eye witness accounts and handed down sayings. The Q source hugely debated by the real experts on the Historical Jesus as to how many of the statements in Mark & Matthew may be authentic.
Luke then written a little later, by someone (traditional deemed to be a scribe of Paul I think) and believed written in Rome as more sympathetic to Rome in some of the stories (like the soldier quenching Jesus’s thirst on the Cross). But with the sense the scribe must have had knowledge of the Q source too.
John being the enigma as v different in style. I’ve read believed to be closer to end of 1st century but some historians claiming it must be based on earlier different sources to Q.
It is fascinating. And the fact, whoever JC was, we still talk and debate what he stood for 2000yrs later arguably makes him one of the most remarkable figures of real history.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
Marc Manley
Marc Manley
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Remarkable, perhaps. The most crucial (I am aware of the root of this word and the double-meaning here) “reliable eye-witness accounts of real historical events” are those of a literal resurrection. It either happened or it didn’t. If it did, then it provides explanation as to why those witnesses at the time, as well as witnesses even up to the present day who say they have truly encountered Jesus, would reveal the encounter via transformed lives, in word and deed.

If the resurrection did not occur, every single word said or written about Jesus is a waste of breath and ink. Paul understood this completely, as seen in 1 Corinthians 15. But also note he fully accepts and preaches the idea that this proclamation and acceptance of the good news of the resurrection is grounded in faith or belief.

If an intelligent historian has no belief that a resurrection is even possible, then I suppose they can’t be faulted for jumping through all manner of hoops to avoid, contradict, or explain away the eye-witness accounts. Of course there have been many intelligent people over the centuries who started out with unbelief, but then ultimately found it impossible to maintain that position once—they would say, in one way or another—they heard Jesus’ voice.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

Historians do have an agenda – the facts. So, mythology, having a powerful influence on human culture, is another important study. Historians may be interested in St Paul, Julius Caesar, Pontius Pilate but not King Arthur, Robin hood, William Tell, Socrates or Jesus Christ. In fact, if it could be proved that Jesus Christ never existed, it would not alter Christianity one iota … it’s a Faith.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

You underestimate the value and indeed the power of the oral tradition.. the art of the story teller was revered and would have been quite accurate (a storyteller lacking accuracy had a short career!)..
I will say truth was more important than accuracy and so if accuracy tended to give a distorted message some variation was essential to the process. In short, accounts did not have to be written to be valid.

Peter Nugent
Peter Nugent
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Fraser

How do you know they weren’t widely rubbished? But still believed by a core group whose message got out to the wider world, while the knowledgeable local criticisms didn’t.
Few texts would have been widespread in a time without printing or media.

Andy Fraser
Andy Fraser
1 year ago

It’s remarkable that intelligent historians decline to accept the New Testament documents as containing reliable eye-witness accounts of real historical events. The earliest date from around 50AD and I t’s likely that they were all circulating before the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. That means they were all around and being shared while tens of thousands of people could have rubbished them, had they been fictional or inaccurate. Perhaps some historians have an agenda.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

This article is intriguing, informative, and balanced in its tone. But I wish Mr. Dusenbury had ventured to make some fresh assertions of his own, beyond establishing that Jesus was beyond any reasonable doubt a real historical person who, given his obscure origins, had an outsized impact on the Ancient World from the outset.
Nevertheless, I intend to get and read his new book, where I expect to find some more venturesome claims.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Jesus was indeed a maverick itinerant rabbi with a remarkable message of love and charity toward the oppressed poor sick and meek. But lets remember too that it was almost the DUTY of every devout Jew to resist the Roman pagans who were violating God’s land. The Gallileans he lived among were notoriously hardcore rebels. And take a peek at the record: John The Baptist – political execution. Jesus – political execution. Brother James- executed in 62. James The Thunderer – executed in 40s. Peter – political execution in Rome. And so on…We follow the ‘Christianity’ adapted/invented by the genius Saul/ Paul who was a Roman citizen. Huge efforts were made by nervous early Christians to distance themselves from the rebellious Jews after the 66-70 War and destruction of Jerusalem. But I am pretty sure that the real Jesus amd his Nazarene cult would have shared his people’s aversion to the pagan defilement of Israel. The politics of resistance has just been scrubbed out.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

[My comment was in error and I’ve removed it. Sorry Walter.]

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Robert Quark
Robert Quark
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I have read and reread the comment to which you refer, but cannot find anywhere in there a supplanting of modern day ideals on the historical Jesus.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Quark

I noted the same, only the messaging here is rather fluid, comments come and go…..

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Quark

Comment erased. My mistake. I misread the second to last sentence to refer to present-day Israel. Very inattentive of me and I shouldn’t have posted, especially in the tone I used. Apologies to all.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Quark

I noted the same, only the messaging here is rather fluid, comments come and go…..

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Quark

Comment erased. My mistake. I misread the second to last sentence to refer to present-day Israel. Very inattentive of me and I shouldn’t have posted, especially in the tone I used. Apologies to all.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your comment confuses me. I am attempting to overturn the more ‘modern assumptions’ that have been encrusted onto to the life of Jesus within 3 decades of his sacrifice and to re-discover the historical rabbi. I have read all the New Testament thanks. What you can observe is how the vivid traces of the amazing human being who roamed in the company of rough earthy Galiean fishermen portrayed in the first and earliest accounts are – (over the period 70-90) supplanted by something different; the ‘Christology’ of the later writers. By Revelations we are with Christ, a divinity just as Saint Paul taught. But unlike the disciples, Saul never met the live Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles – so soft on the Romans – was written by someone committed to Paul’s astonishing theology in the dangerous afgermath of the Jewish rebellion which made all Jews enemies of the empire. The writer’s ‘Christianity’ is very unlikely to have been the same as that preached by Jesus. Political atitudes toward Rome is therefore the first thing to be excised from the theology of the new cult. I contend that one of the ancient’ beliefs Jesus and the Nazarenes would have experienced is hatred of the vile pagan invader of Eretz Israel, the squatter defiling the Temple. They were good Jews and hard Gallieans. But Jesus – unlike The Egyptian or Barabbas – had a far bigger mission. The Romans would unquestionably have seen him as one of hundreds of dangerous Jewish revolutionaries – just one with a bewildering agenda.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

As noted above, I misread part of your comment, perhaps projecting the views of other commenters onto what you wrote too. I apologize.
I strongly agree that Paul was no Jesus and that the words and writings attributed to him have a doubtful and secondary message. His faith often seems intellectualized, programmatic yet abstract, though I’d cite the “if I have not charity” speech as one of the “keepers”.
With the likely exception of Mark, none of the Gospel authors met Jesus either. But at least their primary focus was on the life and teachings of Jesus–less so in John, whose focus is quite abstract and otherworldly–not the disembodied theological claims that are typical of Paul.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

As noted above, I misread part of your comment, perhaps projecting the views of other commenters onto what you wrote too. I apologize.
I strongly agree that Paul was no Jesus and that the words and writings attributed to him have a doubtful and secondary message. His faith often seems intellectualized, programmatic yet abstract, though I’d cite the “if I have not charity” speech as one of the “keepers”.
With the likely exception of Mark, none of the Gospel authors met Jesus either. But at least their primary focus was on the life and teachings of Jesus–less so in John, whose focus is quite abstract and otherworldly–not the disembodied theological claims that are typical of Paul.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No problem. Its such an engaging topic.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Thanks. I very much agree.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Thanks. I very much agree.

Robert Quark
Robert Quark
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I have read and reread the comment to which you refer, but cannot find anywhere in there a supplanting of modern day ideals on the historical Jesus.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your comment confuses me. I am attempting to overturn the more ‘modern assumptions’ that have been encrusted onto to the life of Jesus within 3 decades of his sacrifice and to re-discover the historical rabbi. I have read all the New Testament thanks. What you can observe is how the vivid traces of the amazing human being who roamed in the company of rough earthy Galiean fishermen portrayed in the first and earliest accounts are – (over the period 70-90) supplanted by something different; the ‘Christology’ of the later writers. By Revelations we are with Christ, a divinity just as Saint Paul taught. But unlike the disciples, Saul never met the live Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles – so soft on the Romans – was written by someone committed to Paul’s astonishing theology in the dangerous afgermath of the Jewish rebellion which made all Jews enemies of the empire. The writer’s ‘Christianity’ is very unlikely to have been the same as that preached by Jesus. Political atitudes toward Rome is therefore the first thing to be excised from the theology of the new cult. I contend that one of the ancient’ beliefs Jesus and the Nazarenes would have experienced is hatred of the vile pagan invader of Eretz Israel, the squatter defiling the Temple. They were good Jews and hard Gallieans. But Jesus – unlike The Egyptian or Barabbas – had a far bigger mission. The Romans would unquestionably have seen him as one of hundreds of dangerous Jewish revolutionaries – just one with a bewildering agenda.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No problem. Its such an engaging topic.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

All I know of Jesus’s politics were his words: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s
” and “My kingdom is not of this world”. The one apostle of his 12, who deeply misunderstood him and his non-political nature and mission, betrayed him.
To me it is sad and depressing, that on Christmas Eve, we get only an uninspiring article (and comments below) focusing on Christ’s historical/political aspect and not on his inspirational “Story”, which started one of the World’s largest mystical/inspiring Religion, bringing immense joy and spiritual depth to humanity. Christ’s Story also influenced the most beautiful art, poetry and above all music. You will learn more from the “Christmas Oratorio” by Bach about the affect Christ’s birth had on our souls, than a thousand words about historical sources and rationalisations of the source of Christianity.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I agree that the tone is not jolly or reverent, but it’s quite evenhanded, not backhanded or snide as Terry Eagleton’s article is in many places.
Peter Wehner has a testimonial message-of-faith article in the NYT. I found it to be gushing, but sincere.
Time for St. Matthew Passion or other inspirational music by Bach or Handel I think.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I agree that the tone is not jolly or reverent, but it’s quite evenhanded, not backhanded or snide as Terry Eagleton’s article is in many places.
Peter Wehner has a testimonial message-of-faith article in the NYT. I found it to be gushing, but sincere.
Time for St. Matthew Passion or other inspirational music by Bach or Handel I think.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I doubt that. Left in was Jesus’s total lack of interest in all things secular..

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

[My comment was in error and I’ve removed it. Sorry Walter.]

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

All I know of Jesus’s politics were his words: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s
” and “My kingdom is not of this world”. The one apostle of his 12, who deeply misunderstood him and his non-political nature and mission, betrayed him.
To me it is sad and depressing, that on Christmas Eve, we get only an uninspiring article (and comments below) focusing on Christ’s historical/political aspect and not on his inspirational “Story”, which started one of the World’s largest mystical/inspiring Religion, bringing immense joy and spiritual depth to humanity. Christ’s Story also influenced the most beautiful art, poetry and above all music. You will learn more from the “Christmas Oratorio” by Bach about the affect Christ’s birth had on our souls, than a thousand words about historical sources and rationalisations of the source of Christianity.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I doubt that. Left in was Jesus’s total lack of interest in all things secular..

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Jesus was indeed a maverick itinerant rabbi with a remarkable message of love and charity toward the oppressed poor sick and meek. But lets remember too that it was almost the DUTY of every devout Jew to resist the Roman pagans who were violating God’s land. The Gallileans he lived among were notoriously hardcore rebels. And take a peek at the record: John The Baptist – political execution. Jesus – political execution. Brother James- executed in 62. James The Thunderer – executed in 40s. Peter – political execution in Rome. And so on…We follow the ‘Christianity’ adapted/invented by the genius Saul/ Paul who was a Roman citizen. Huge efforts were made by nervous early Christians to distance themselves from the rebellious Jews after the 66-70 War and destruction of Jerusalem. But I am pretty sure that the real Jesus amd his Nazarene cult would have shared his people’s aversion to the pagan defilement of Israel. The politics of resistance has just been scrubbed out.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

This article is intriguing, informative, and balanced in its tone. But I wish Mr. Dusenbury had ventured to make some fresh assertions of his own, beyond establishing that Jesus was beyond any reasonable doubt a real historical person who, given his obscure origins, had an outsized impact on the Ancient World from the outset.
Nevertheless, I intend to get and read his new book, where I expect to find some more venturesome claims.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

How nice to follow a discussion on Unherd that is eloquent and reasoned, rather than the usual hysterical, backslapping rants.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“hysterical, backslapping rants”, a rather fine description of your good self Ms Holland if I may say so!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Funny that. The minute I read John Hollan’s remarks I thought of yourself Charlie! And lo it came to pass, the very next piece of garbage I read was from you. How fitting.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

He’s always lurking, waiting, for that opportunity to display!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

He’s always lurking, waiting, for that opportunity to display!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Funny that. The minute I read John Hollan’s remarks I thought of yourself Charlie! And lo it came to pass, the very next piece of garbage I read was from you. How fitting.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Oh – what do you know of anything – go away!

(and Merry Christmas)

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Well said. Not the sort of chap one would want to find fishing in the Slough Cut is he/she?

Happy Christmas!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Have you any conception of how hollow and empty you sound?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Well said. Not the sort of chap one would want to find fishing in the Slough Cut is he/she?

Happy Christmas!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Have you any conception of how hollow and empty you sound?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“hysterical, backslapping rants”, a rather fine description of your good self Ms Holland if I may say so!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Oh – what do you know of anything – go away!

(and Merry Christmas)

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

How nice to follow a discussion on Unherd that is eloquent and reasoned, rather than the usual hysterical, backslapping rants.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 year ago

In matters like these I always mis-remember the words of Malcolm Muggeridge:
If Jesus has been a Jewish Nationalist then Christianity would have never got started.
(YouTube, Firing Line with William F Buckley:The Culture of the Left)

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

I have always seen the practical difference in Islam and Christianity as Islam is a book of rules and laws from the most mundane as brushing ones teeth, finance, clean and unclean, and Civil laws, laws governing everything religious And civil – Sharia Law. Where Christianity stayed with Divine law, and left civil law to earthly government, and also that it was a duty to be a good citizen under human governed law, that society may function.

”With the coin displayed in front of them, Jesus said, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” The Herodians and Pharisees, stating the obvious, said, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus brought an end to their foolish tricks: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” ( Matthew 22:21, ESV )”

And asked about eating pork said it is not what goes into a mouth which defiles one, but what comes out of it. Separation of church and state, holy and mundane.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonas Moze
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Perhaps if you confine your definition of Christianity to the New Testament. But of course the Hebrew portion of the scriptures which Christians acknowledge contains many such rules of cleanliness, standards of punishment (often death) etc., in addition to inspirational, philosophical, historical, and mythical writings across dozens of books.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Personally I regard the OT as the warming up act and of little value otherwise. Jesus summed it up when he said the Law of Moses applied to people too hard of heart to be worthy followers of his message.
The OT is for vengeful Zionists to justify land theft and apartheid. In many ways Jesus’s message in antithetical to OT brutality, savagery and wickedness of every kind. Hence the Zionist connection. Btw do not accuse me of antisemitism:
1. Jesus, my no.1 hero was Jewish.
2. Palestinians are semitic too.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Personally I regard the OT as the warming up act and of little value otherwise. Jesus summed it up when he said the Law of Moses applied to people too hard of heart to be worthy followers of his message.
The OT is for vengeful Zionists to justify land theft and apartheid. In many ways Jesus’s message in antithetical to OT brutality, savagery and wickedness of every kind. Hence the Zionist connection. Btw do not accuse me of antisemitism:
1. Jesus, my no.1 hero was Jewish.
2. Palestinians are semitic too.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Perhaps if you confine your definition of Christianity to the New Testament. But of course the Hebrew portion of the scriptures which Christians acknowledge contains many such rules of cleanliness, standards of punishment (often death) etc., in addition to inspirational, philosophical, historical, and mythical writings across dozens of books.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

Quite. Barabbas made it into history only because of his timing.. there were many others apparently, all forgotten now so MM was right!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

I have always seen the practical difference in Islam and Christianity as Islam is a book of rules and laws from the most mundane as brushing ones teeth, finance, clean and unclean, and Civil laws, laws governing everything religious And civil – Sharia Law. Where Christianity stayed with Divine law, and left civil law to earthly government, and also that it was a duty to be a good citizen under human governed law, that society may function.

”With the coin displayed in front of them, Jesus said, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” The Herodians and Pharisees, stating the obvious, said, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus brought an end to their foolish tricks: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” ( Matthew 22:21, ESV )”

And asked about eating pork said it is not what goes into a mouth which defiles one, but what comes out of it. Separation of church and state, holy and mundane.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonas Moze
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

Quite. Barabbas made it into history only because of his timing.. there were many others apparently, all forgotten now so MM was right!

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 year ago

In matters like these I always mis-remember the words of Malcolm Muggeridge:
If Jesus has been a Jewish Nationalist then Christianity would have never got started.
(YouTube, Firing Line with William F Buckley:The Culture of the Left)

Josef O
Josef O
1 year ago

There are several things unclear about the life of Jesus from Nazareth.
In the Jewish tradition having a baby is a moment of great pride and joy. It is a joy for the mother and the father as well. Why then the father of the baby in this case is being excluded from his birth ?
Second question, in the Jewish tradition (and Jesus was a Jew) getting married (in many cases at the young age) is a very important precept, then having children which is a divine blessing. Well he does not marry and has no children. Very unusual and I would say unlikely.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

With regard to your first point, wouldn’t you say that your wife being a virgin (supposedly) might have had something to do with it? Of course, that might just be made-up nonsense, but then Jesus wouldn’t be the “Son of God”, would he.

I’m pretty sure artificial insemination wasn’t readily available c. 4BC and even if some unworldly agent was responsible, why wasn’t the marriage consummated? And what’s more, how would anyone know, writing these stories decades later? Does anyone know what their grandparents got up to?

We’re meant to gasp in wonder at these ‘mysteries’, as an act of faith. Each to their own.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Josef O
Josef O
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Credo quia absurdum.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

I wonder what Pliny would say about that?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Elder or Younger?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Elder or Younger?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

And yet, you question…
The points i raise are also questions, of course, not statements. I would maintain however, that people ‘believe’ due to an emotional need, not because of the absurdity of what they’re being asked to believe. It may well be the case that if a perfectly rational basis were available, there’d be no need for belief and therefore no disciples (in the broadest sense).
The problem with an emotional basis for belief is that people become emotional when others don’t believe, regarding it as an affront. We see this in Unherd comments almost every day.
My last point was: each to their own. Many ills in the world would not occur if believers were able to accept that.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Heavens, yes- only yesterday I was on the receiving end of screeds of insults and ranting from supposed ‘Christians’ on Unherd, simply for a couple of approving comments on an article questioning the likelihood of Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth.
So much for Season of Goodwill to all men.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Heavens, yes- only yesterday I was on the receiving end of screeds of insults and ranting from supposed ‘Christians’ on Unherd, simply for a couple of approving comments on an article questioning the likelihood of Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth.
So much for Season of Goodwill to all men.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

I wonder what Pliny would say about that?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

And yet, you question…
The points i raise are also questions, of course, not statements. I would maintain however, that people ‘believe’ due to an emotional need, not because of the absurdity of what they’re being asked to believe. It may well be the case that if a perfectly rational basis were available, there’d be no need for belief and therefore no disciples (in the broadest sense).
The problem with an emotional basis for belief is that people become emotional when others don’t believe, regarding it as an affront. We see this in Unherd comments almost every day.
My last point was: each to their own. Many ills in the world would not occur if believers were able to accept that.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The ‘virgin’ is a red herring anyway, the result of a mistranslation of Hebrew for ‘young woman’ into Greek ‘parthenos’. Believers latched on to it – QAnon 1st century style.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago

Calling BS, Nicholas.

First, your disbelief does not render Truth untrue.

Birth had to be of a virgin so the resulting child would not have a sin nature. The Seed implanted by the Holy Spirit accomplished this.

Therefore, Jesus the Man, who fulfilled His Father’s will to remain sinless (inherently and volitionally) was qualified to be a proxy representative of the first parents and all human descendants on the Cross.

—Had to be sinless to pass inspection and qualify as the final Lamb of God.

—Had to be sinless to become the Federal Head of humanity and to pay for the sins of all on the cross.

—Had to be sinless to defeat death and to have His sacrifice accepted by God as final/full payment for the sins of humankind.

—Had to be sinless to rise from the dead (death had no hold on Christ as He was Perfect; sinless; Deity.

The virgin birth is essential doctrine. Without it 
 all the rest means nothing.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

I see you have indeed “latched on to it”. Keep taking the tablets!

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Is that all you’ve got?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

Solomon the wise? ..not so much, clearly!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

Solomon the wise? ..not so much, clearly!

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

“The virgin birth is essential doctrine. Without it 
 all the rest means nothing.”
“Keep taking the tablets!” Meaning you’re whacko. But in fact that line about the essential doctrine in itself cannot be disputed, otherwise there is nothing. And there most certainly is something. Whether one believe in this story doesn’t really matter to me. But the story itself and the weaving and joining of dots I find interesting. R Kay is right in making the comments about sin, the virgin and Jesus. There is a something perfectly rational in all this. If you can find holes in what was said, apart from saying it’s jumbo jumbo, I’d be interested to hear them.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Doctrine, ie adhering to the strict letter of the law is, for me (and coincidentally Jesus) not that important.
The core message, understood more by the heart than the head is what is crucial.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I understand what you mean by doctrine. But that aside I find the backstory to be interesting and endless in its permutations and meanings. Equally so if in fact there was no Jesus. In Western culture it’s probably one of the greatest stories ever told that can be referred to under many different circumstances (I include the Bible itself). And even as someone who sees no proof of God I find it endlessly fascinating. Without what you might call the doctrine it comes across as something like a greeting card full of aphorisms and empty platitudes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

That is because you suffer from a poverty of understanding. Relying on scientific proof for God/Soulfulness is akin to using the same set of tools (applicable solely to material things*) to an examination of Live, Love and Beauty etc.
E.F. Shoemacher showed science is…
Good for examining matter
Poor at examining life
Useless for examining consciousness and
Absolutely useless for examining awareness
…and so: the more important the subject is the less useful science is.
* it seems, material doesn’t even exist in truth (the physicists tell us) and instead we only have information and energy. How odd that 4,000 years ago the wise described God and omniscient and omnipotent! Probably just a coincidence …not.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I always find it odd that people who believe in science, believing they are open minded to discovery of facts, just can’t cope with the idea of faith, and it’s rational role in contradicting science.

I myself have no belief in any religion, but accept that I can’t prove my position, so I thoroughly respect the beliefs of religious people who also can’t prove their position.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I always find it odd that people who believe in science, believing they are open minded to discovery of facts, just can’t cope with the idea of faith, and it’s rational role in contradicting science.

I myself have no belief in any religion, but accept that I can’t prove my position, so I thoroughly respect the beliefs of religious people who also can’t prove their position.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

That is because you suffer from a poverty of understanding. Relying on scientific proof for God/Soulfulness is akin to using the same set of tools (applicable solely to material things*) to an examination of Live, Love and Beauty etc.
E.F. Shoemacher showed science is…
Good for examining matter
Poor at examining life
Useless for examining consciousness and
Absolutely useless for examining awareness
…and so: the more important the subject is the less useful science is.
* it seems, material doesn’t even exist in truth (the physicists tell us) and instead we only have information and energy. How odd that 4,000 years ago the wise described God and omniscient and omnipotent! Probably just a coincidence …not.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I understand what you mean by doctrine. But that aside I find the backstory to be interesting and endless in its permutations and meanings. Equally so if in fact there was no Jesus. In Western culture it’s probably one of the greatest stories ever told that can be referred to under many different circumstances (I include the Bible itself). And even as someone who sees no proof of God I find it endlessly fascinating. Without what you might call the doctrine it comes across as something like a greeting card full of aphorisms and empty platitudes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Doctrine, ie adhering to the strict letter of the law is, for me (and coincidentally Jesus) not that important.
The core message, understood more by the heart than the head is what is crucial.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Is that all you’ve got?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

“The virgin birth is essential doctrine. Without it 
 all the rest means nothing.”
“Keep taking the tablets!” Meaning you’re whacko. But in fact that line about the essential doctrine in itself cannot be disputed, otherwise there is nothing. And there most certainly is something. Whether one believe in this story doesn’t really matter to me. But the story itself and the weaving and joining of dots I find interesting. R Kay is right in making the comments about sin, the virgin and Jesus. There is a something perfectly rational in all this. If you can find holes in what was said, apart from saying it’s jumbo jumbo, I’d be interested to hear them.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

You forget Jesus rejected the term ‘good’ when applied to him saying only the Father is good (without sin).. ie ultimate divinity. I believe Jesus was not such without sin as uniquely able to avoid sin. The first is simply a bestowed power whereas the latter is a huge achievement. A far greater accolade!

A Cee
A Cee
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Jesus never rejected the term “good.” When the rich young ruler addressed him as “Good Teacher,” Jesus wanted to know why he described him as good since only God is truly good. Put another way, Jesus could be understood as saying “Do you know who I truly am?”

In John 10, Jesus called himself “the Good Shepherd” and spoke of his oneness with God the Father, which the Jewish leaders to whom he was speaking rightfully understood as a claim to deity.

A Cee
A Cee
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Jesus never rejected the term “good.” When the rich young ruler addressed him as “Good Teacher,” Jesus wanted to know why he described him as good since only God is truly good. Put another way, Jesus could be understood as saying “Do you know who I truly am?”

In John 10, Jesus called himself “the Good Shepherd” and spoke of his oneness with God the Father, which the Jewish leaders to whom he was speaking rightfully understood as a claim to deity.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

I see you have indeed “latched on to it”. Keep taking the tablets!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

You forget Jesus rejected the term ‘good’ when applied to him saying only the Father is good (without sin).. ie ultimate divinity. I believe Jesus was not such without sin as uniquely able to avoid sin. The first is simply a bestowed power whereas the latter is a huge achievement. A far greater accolade!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Interesting point.. I agree it is unimportant to all but the priestly.. the message is all.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago

Calling BS, Nicholas.

First, your disbelief does not render Truth untrue.

Birth had to be of a virgin so the resulting child would not have a sin nature. The Seed implanted by the Holy Spirit accomplished this.

Therefore, Jesus the Man, who fulfilled His Father’s will to remain sinless (inherently and volitionally) was qualified to be a proxy representative of the first parents and all human descendants on the Cross.

—Had to be sinless to pass inspection and qualify as the final Lamb of God.

—Had to be sinless to become the Federal Head of humanity and to pay for the sins of all on the cross.

—Had to be sinless to defeat death and to have His sacrifice accepted by God as final/full payment for the sins of humankind.

—Had to be sinless to rise from the dead (death had no hold on Christ as He was Perfect; sinless; Deity.

The virgin birth is essential doctrine. Without it 
 all the rest means nothing.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Interesting point.. I agree it is unimportant to all but the priestly.. the message is all.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The supernatural claims of the gospel stories have little bearing on the teachings and living example of the historical Jesus. For centuries, some people have understood that, including William Blake (1757-1827), as exemplified in his important poem “The Everlasting Gospel”.
Looking past the metaphysical trappings: What fault do you find with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth?

Josef O
Josef O
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Nothing is wrong with the teachings, many come from the Hebrew Bible.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

Indeed.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

If you think nothing is ‘wrong’ with the OT Bible then I suggest you read it. It is largely a fictitious account of the Jewish people replete with land grabs, genocidal killings, barbaric cruelty etc. Why do you think Zionists like it so much?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

Indeed.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Josef O

If you think nothing is ‘wrong’ with the OT Bible then I suggest you read it. It is largely a fictitious account of the Jewish people replete with land grabs, genocidal killings, barbaric cruelty etc. Why do you think Zionists like it so much?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

In the first instance, the one cannot be divorced from the other. Unless the teachings of Jesus can be accepted as “the word of god” they’re mainly a way of existing in the world without doing harm. There is no need for Jesus to teach that, since many people try not to do harm as a matter of course (without always being successful, naturally). They would’ve done so before him, since then, and in today’s world. In other words, the religion built up around his teachings is unnecessary.
Those who will do harm to others ignore his teachings anyway.
The other aspect is the ‘afterlife’, which is an emotional need to believe we’ll somehow survive our physical death, exemplified by the resurrection, of course. If it makes people feel better to believe in that aspect, providing no harm is done to them by benignly neglecting to live life to the full, that’s up to them.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Most practicing Christians believe they are living life to the full, especially since they’re not just living for themselves, but in the service to others in accordance with their faith. In the end, we’ll all find out if there is life everlasting. Personally, I’d aspire to be a truly faithful Christian – something that has eluded me – but I live in hope and pray for our world. Merry Christmas!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

Me as well – the flaw is I think faith is meant to fallow acts. We go with the rituals and fallow the rules that one day we may find faith. Faith is something worked for, not just something which happens out of the blue. And I seem to not be able to make myself do the things I should, like going to Church and becoming part of the religious fellowship, studying the Bible, doing proper prayer as taught, and so on.

Being an agnostic is maybe being Lazy. I have a signed copy of Archimandrite Sophrony’s book, and he is a Saint, he signed it for my mother, and I know to be one of faith is the hardest path.

Camel through the eye of the needle stuff. The Desert Fathers, his years on Mount Athos – I cannot imagine having the discipline to earn such faith, it is such work, and then the greater the faith, the more is demanded – Christianity is a very hard religion in what it requires.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

Me as well – the flaw is I think faith is meant to fallow acts. We go with the rituals and fallow the rules that one day we may find faith. Faith is something worked for, not just something which happens out of the blue. And I seem to not be able to make myself do the things I should, like going to Church and becoming part of the religious fellowship, studying the Bible, doing proper prayer as taught, and so on.

Being an agnostic is maybe being Lazy. I have a signed copy of Archimandrite Sophrony’s book, and he is a Saint, he signed it for my mother, and I know to be one of faith is the hardest path.

Camel through the eye of the needle stuff. The Desert Fathers, his years on Mount Athos – I cannot imagine having the discipline to earn such faith, it is such work, and then the greater the faith, the more is demanded – Christianity is a very hard religion in what it requires.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Was not the ‘new’ part of Jesus’ teaching his universalism?
Doing no harm may not have been new (though I don’t know of a precedent for ‘turning the other cheek’ and the ‘meekness’ that so infuriated Nietzsche), but the idea of one’s obligations being to a universal human brotherhood, rather than one’s class, tribe, state or religion, surely was?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Yes. To me, that new quality is even more powerfully exemplified in this saying: “Love thine enemy, and pray for those who despitefully use you”–a radical message of compassion and forgiveness.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

…and dangerous to the status quo and so the ‘elites’ of the time. Just like now!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

We’re in agreement here, Liam. Merry Christmas.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Feliz Natal from sunny Portugal!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I bid you a good Boxing Day from San José, California. Twilight and 15C on a mild Christmas Day here.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Hah.. we’ve got 19° in sunny Salema, Algarve. I loved San Francisco when I was there many years ago with my good friend Richard Burke PhD, physicist and Christian Scientist and his lovely (5th!) wife Polly in San Mateo.. Happy days!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Hah.. we’ve got 19° in sunny Salema, Algarve. I loved San Francisco when I was there many years ago with my good friend Richard Burke PhD, physicist and Christian Scientist and his lovely (5th!) wife Polly in San Mateo.. Happy days!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I bid you a good Boxing Day from San José, California. Twilight and 15C on a mild Christmas Day here.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Feliz Natal from sunny Portugal!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

We’re in agreement here, Liam. Merry Christmas.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

…and dangerous to the status quo and so the ‘elites’ of the time. Just like now!

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

We underestimate the significance of the Pax Romana as setting the cultural ambience across the empire for the people to experience ‘freedom from harm’, ‘meekness’ and ‘universalism’ in their everyday lives. It set the stage for the invention and promulgation of the myth of Jesus Christ as the agent who miraculously ushered in this new world through divine providence. Paul’s zeal was fuelled by the exhilaration of being a Roman citizen in the empire of peace.
Christianity has spread over the centuries to bring peace and order, prosperous stability through hegemonial power. The founding miracle was the Pax Romana. Today, Christendom hinges on the hegemony of the USA.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Your final sentence jumped off the page for me! Surely, the US (govt, military industrial complex and deluded fundamentalists et al) is the antithesis of everything, and I mean everything Jesus preached and stood for?
I’m glad you didn’t refer to Pax Americana with its demonic history of murder, mayhem and destruction all over the world!
Pax Romana was a good deal less evil but still involved genocidal murder, criminal taxation, dreadful cruelty and denial of truth.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Your final sentence jumped off the page for me! Surely, the US (govt, military industrial complex and deluded fundamentalists et al) is the antithesis of everything, and I mean everything Jesus preached and stood for?
I’m glad you didn’t refer to Pax Americana with its demonic history of murder, mayhem and destruction all over the world!
Pax Romana was a good deal less evil but still involved genocidal murder, criminal taxation, dreadful cruelty and denial of truth.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

..and that surely would have infuriated the leaders of such tribes, states and religions!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Yes. To me, that new quality is even more powerfully exemplified in this saying: “Love thine enemy, and pray for those who despitefully use you”–a radical message of compassion and forgiveness.

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

We underestimate the significance of the Pax Romana as setting the cultural ambience across the empire for the people to experience ‘freedom from harm’, ‘meekness’ and ‘universalism’ in their everyday lives. It set the stage for the invention and promulgation of the myth of Jesus Christ as the agent who miraculously ushered in this new world through divine providence. Paul’s zeal was fuelled by the exhilaration of being a Roman citizen in the empire of peace.
Christianity has spread over the centuries to bring peace and order, prosperous stability through hegemonial power. The founding miracle was the Pax Romana. Today, Christendom hinges on the hegemony of the USA.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

..and that surely would have infuriated the leaders of such tribes, states and religions!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

They most certainly can be divorced from one another. I can’t read and respect the Dhammapada or Bhagavad Gita unless I accept every Buddhist or Hindu claim?
I prefer the nomenclature Jesus of Nazareth and Gautama Siddhartha. While they don’t seem to me to have been ordinary people, I do think they were human, and focusing on a purported superhuman or divine status detracts from the teachings, attributing their words and actions to some kind of magic-ness, falsely making their paths seem un-walkable for others, rather than steep and hard, but possible to emulate. To me, the prevailing messages have to do with how to live and treat one another now, with the only life we’re sure to have while we have it.
In the prayer that Jesus offered to everyone (“Our Father, who art in heaven…”), he never mentions himself, nor an afterlife personal salvation.
{corrected: my claim was too absolute–or perhaps I’ll just admit I was mistaken–in the final clause}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“…thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven…”?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Fair enough, you got me. I should have at least run through something I’ve memorized and internalized before making that assertion. The words of the prayer are still completely away from any mention of Jesus himself, and emphasizing forgiveness and mercy on Earth, not personal salvation.
You also omitted the words “Thy will be done” in the middle of what you’ve quoted, perhaps for effect. Cheers.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You simplify too much.. eternal life is the timeless life of the soul, available (barely with a lot of effort) in the here and now. The ‘kingdom of Heaven is nigh’ ..In fact it’s right here but not so easy to attain (enlightened); especially for anyone who is negative, stupid, stubborn, in denial or indeed overly doctrinaire!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I agree with you, even regarding your observation/accusation that I simplify too much. But not always. I would offer you this reply, and reminder to myself:
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, â€œLet me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye’. [NRSV]
May there be peace on Earth and goodwill among all people, today and some day.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Mea culpa.. I meant them as observations open to contradiction, never as judgements but I accept that is what they look like.. my later comments were addressed generally btw not to you at all!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Mea culpa.. I meant them as observations open to contradiction, never as judgements but I accept that is what they look like.. my later comments were addressed generally btw not to you at all!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I agree with you, even regarding your observation/accusation that I simplify too much. But not always. I would offer you this reply, and reminder to myself:
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, â€œLet me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye’. [NRSV]
May there be peace on Earth and goodwill among all people, today and some day.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You simplify too much.. eternal life is the timeless life of the soul, available (barely with a lot of effort) in the here and now. The ‘kingdom of Heaven is nigh’ ..In fact it’s right here but not so easy to attain (enlightened); especially for anyone who is negative, stupid, stubborn, in denial or indeed overly doctrinaire!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Fair enough, you got me. I should have at least run through something I’ve memorized and internalized before making that assertion. The words of the prayer are still completely away from any mention of Jesus himself, and emphasizing forgiveness and mercy on Earth, not personal salvation.
You also omitted the words “Thy will be done” in the middle of what you’ve quoted, perhaps for effect. Cheers.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“…thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven…”?

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Living within the grim strictures of those most extreme Protestant sects makes believing in an afterlife prerequisite, I think.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

You confuse afterlife with eternal life. Big difference..

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Ahh. You are a deist. Okay. I can accept that.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Ahh. You are a deist. Okay. I can accept that.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

You confuse afterlife with eternal life. Big difference..

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Most practicing Christians believe they are living life to the full, especially since they’re not just living for themselves, but in the service to others in accordance with their faith. In the end, we’ll all find out if there is life everlasting. Personally, I’d aspire to be a truly faithful Christian – something that has eluded me – but I live in hope and pray for our world. Merry Christmas!

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Was not the ‘new’ part of Jesus’ teaching his universalism?
Doing no harm may not have been new (though I don’t know of a precedent for ‘turning the other cheek’ and the ‘meekness’ that so infuriated Nietzsche), but the idea of one’s obligations being to a universal human brotherhood, rather than one’s class, tribe, state or religion, surely was?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

They most certainly can be divorced from one another. I can’t read and respect the Dhammapada or Bhagavad Gita unless I accept every Buddhist or Hindu claim?
I prefer the nomenclature Jesus of Nazareth and Gautama Siddhartha. While they don’t seem to me to have been ordinary people, I do think they were human, and focusing on a purported superhuman or divine status detracts from the teachings, attributing their words and actions to some kind of magic-ness, falsely making their paths seem un-walkable for others, rather than steep and hard, but possible to emulate. To me, the prevailing messages have to do with how to live and treat one another now, with the only life we’re sure to have while we have it.
In the prayer that Jesus offered to everyone (“Our Father, who art in heaven…”), he never mentions himself, nor an afterlife personal salvation.
{corrected: my claim was too absolute–or perhaps I’ll just admit I was mistaken–in the final clause}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Living within the grim strictures of those most extreme Protestant sects makes believing in an afterlife prerequisite, I think.

Josef O
Josef O
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Nothing is wrong with the teachings, many come from the Hebrew Bible.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

In the first instance, the one cannot be divorced from the other. Unless the teachings of Jesus can be accepted as “the word of god” they’re mainly a way of existing in the world without doing harm. There is no need for Jesus to teach that, since many people try not to do harm as a matter of course (without always being successful, naturally). They would’ve done so before him, since then, and in today’s world. In other words, the religion built up around his teachings is unnecessary.
Those who will do harm to others ignore his teachings anyway.
The other aspect is the ‘afterlife’, which is an emotional need to believe we’ll somehow survive our physical death, exemplified by the resurrection, of course. If it makes people feel better to believe in that aspect, providing no harm is done to them by benignly neglecting to live life to the full, that’s up to them.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

In the multi-denominational Roman world, cults overlaid upon one another created a cross-fertilisation of beliefs and mythologies. Diana, the virgin goddess who had a large following in Asia Minor, was the likely cause for the development of the cult of Mary by the Christian hierarchy. Let’s call it “inclusivity” in the name of expanding the cultural – and political – hegemony of the early church.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

Amazing how you know all the deep mysteries of the universe – so casually picking some bit of info you got and then saying this is what is true and two thousand years of of the greatest intellectual organization of existence – the Church, with its millions of great minds studying teachings of Christ, the worlds top Philosophers, the millions of Monks, Priests, Bishops – all wrong….

Doug from Croyden, or where ever, just pointed out the biggest influence in all humanity by far with billions of adherents have been hoodwinked…

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

…better hoodwinked by that lot that by Godless despots such as Stalinist / Maoist communism, Hitler’s / Mussolini’s fascism and UK/ American / WEF neoliberalism..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony