Moses is widely considered the main patriarch for the Abrahamic religions. Although many today regard his existence as suspect, few understand the powerful mythological resonance of the Moses figure. Moses is actually a syncretic and composite godman reaching into many ancient cultures and faiths. He is part sun-god, part lawgiver archetype, and plenty hero of a thousand faces. We enter the Myth of Moses in order to discover the censored wisdom of ancient Gnosis and the fury of an angry volcanic deity that has ruled the West for thousands of years. – D.M. Murdock / Acharya S.
“Kalavai Venkat bases his analysis [of Christianity] on a thorough knowledge of the relevant literature, but first of all on a close reading of the source material, starting with the Bible. Most Hindus would already be disabused of their illusions about Christianity if they simply read the Bible, rather than the syrupy pamphlets of the missionaries. Since the 18th century, freethinkers have collected all the contradictions and absurdities in the Bible. Christian apologists tend to dismiss these sceptics as “village atheists” and pretend that there is a more sophisticated angle from which all these anomalies suddenly become logical. But this author clearly hasn’t found it, and isn’t convinced of its existence.” – Dr Koenraad Elst
What Every Hindu Should Know about Christianity (Hindu World Publisher, 2014, Buy from Lulu) is a book by Kalavai Venkat, pen name of a computer scientist living in Silicon Valley but originating in Kanchipuram, India. To Hindus it might be meaningful to know that he is a “Tambram”, a Tamil Brahmin. His mother tongue is Tamil, but he is also at home in Sanskrit, Hindi and English. Having worked in Israel for years, he also knows some Hebrew, which is an unusual advantage over most Indians dabbling in Biblical Studies. But his chief competence is science, and this outlook contributes more and more to our understanding of how Christianity came about and why it still persists.
An important new contribution, already familiar to Western specialists but much less to the Hindu layman, is psychology. Many Christian beliefs and practises, as well as the reflexes of the Christian apologists, are explained by such concepts as “confirmation bias”, “cognitive dissonance” and “selective attention”, the findings of evolutionary biology (which finds traces of morality even among the higher animals, independent from any divine revelation of the Ten Commandments) and the notion “meme”. These factors explain the Christian superiority feeling and anti-Hindu animus a lot better than the imperialist conspiracies or the sheer money factor to which many argumentative Hindus reduce the missionary offensive. While some American Protestant missionaries can make a career by harvesting souls in India for some years, most missionaries in the past and even today have made a lot of sacrifices for the joy of converting Pagans to the true faith. Some belief in their minds is stronger than any longing for pleasure and comforts. Sentimental people might deduce from this self-abnegation and strength of conviction that this conviction must be true. But while this belief is strong, indeed calculated to grab people by the throat and retain their loyalty to the death, it is also false.
Kalavai Venkat bases his analysis on a thorough knowledge of the relevant literature, but first of all on a close reading of the source material, starting with the Bible. Most Hindus would already be disabused of their illusions about Christianity if they simply read the Bible, rather than the syrupy pamphlets of the missionaries. Since the 18th century, freethinkers have collected all the contradictions and absurdities in the Bible. Christian apologists tend to dismiss these sceptics as “village atheists” and pretend that there is a more sophisticated angle from which all these anomalies suddenly become logical. But this author clearly hasn’t found it, and isn’t convinced of its existence.
Thus, it is undeniable that Jesus predicted his own Second Coming in the End-Time for within the lifetime of his listeners. On this simple prediction, which in his case required nothing more than looking up this momentous date in his very own agenda, God Incarnate managed to get it wrong. Some people may call it unsportsmanlike and unreligious to bring up this obvious defect, but hey, it is there is the Gospel in cold print. Should we not believe in the Bible anymore? When so many human beings do make accurate predictions, should we not expect some reliability from God himself?
There are also elements in the Bible which modern sensibilities would find unpalatable. Thus, the Old Testament law requires a groom who finds that his bride is not a virgin anymore, to take her to her father’s doorstep and stone her to death. Similarly, a witch or a homosexual should be executed; God himself orders it. Now, Christians will tell you that this doesn’t apply anymore in the “Second Covenant”, i.e. Christianity (Judaism being the “First Covenant”), and that Jesus specifically prevented the stoning of an adulterous woman. Fine, but the author points out that Jesus explicitly professes his loyalty to the First Covenant and the totality of the Mosaic law. It is only with Saint Paul that a break with the Jewish law is effected. If Jesus prevented the stoning of a woman who by law deserved to be stoned, he was not law-observant and told a brazen-faced lie when he proclaimed his attachment to the totality of the law. Another possibility is that the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman was made up later as an illustration of the new Pauline view, which threw open the initially Jewish sect called Christianity to the Pagans. Paul did away with the law, and as an illustration of this reform, Jesus is posthumously turned into an enlightened skeptic of the law.
All this is on the assumption that Jesus and Paul existed at all. The author devotes a lot of pages to this question, which has occupied many scholars. Many motifs are just general and appear in the hagiographies of other divine or extraordinary persons. In Herod persecuting the infant Jesus and trying to kill him, Hindus will recognize a similar episode in the babe Krishna’s life. Indeed, religion-founding myths have a way of travelling. Thus, we know how Moses’ story of being found after surviving as an infant in a little boat was copied from a story about king Sargon of Akkad, nearly a thousand years older; or that Noah’s flood story was copied from the Gilgamesh epic. The Bible is not unique, it is but an evolute of many existing stories, upon which a new theology was superimposed. But some elements in Jesus’ story point to the existence of an individual, a travelling healer who shared the apocalyptic beliefs of his environment. Elements like the delusion that he was the expected Messiah, or that he suffered the Roman punishment of execution, may well be true. So, most likely we have a historical core with a mythological overlay, adapted by the evolving Church depending on its changing political and theological interests. As for Paul, doubting his existence is much less common, but the author summarizing the scholarly arguments for both positions without really deciding. A problem here is that Biblical scholarship is still mostly practised by Christian institutes. A truly historical and scientific approach is still very minoritarian.
The author advocates a straightforward attack on the Christian core beliefs. No diplomacy, no appeasement, no inculturation, as so many other Hindus practise and advocate. Ridiculing Hindu “idolatry” and “polytheism” in the colonial period made the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and informally numerous anglicized Hindus make the improbable claim that they were iconoclastic monotheists. If you hear these Hindus talk about “God”, you might think you are among Evangelicals, so deep has the imitation gone. This proves that ridicule really works. Similarly, but more truthfully: if the many absurdities and contradictions in Christianity become better known, Hindus will turn away from it and even born Christians will disown the typical beliefs of Christianity.
Among the sources of inspiration he lists, the writer mentions my own book, Psychology of Prophetism: a Secular Look at the Bible (Voice of India, Delhi, 1995). I wrote that book because I was exasperated at seeing what silly myths numerous Hindus tend to cherish concerning Christianity and specifically concerning the person of Jesus: he was a guru, he had been to India, his “real” teaching included reincarnation, etc. It was by no means comprehensive and had only modest ambitions, but it seemed to me that it was urgently needed to convey to the Hindu public a glimpse of the scholarly and psychological knowledge recently built up about Christianity’s founding myth. Of course, with a mere book, distributed by a marginal publisher, I could not hope to make much of a difference. But seeing that twenty years later it has contributed to the present book, more thorough and fully accounting for the advances that science has made since, I am happy at seeing my effort amply rewarded.
At the time I had befriended the late Dr. Herman Somers, an apostate ex-Jesuit known among Jesuits as “Doctor Triplex” because he had doctorates in Theology, Classical Studies and Psychology, besides an MA in Thomist Philosophy. He drew my attention to the work that psychologists had done about the Biblical prophets and the character of Jesus over the preceding century. He himself had written two books on the subject, in Dutch (given all his other knowledge, his active command of English was, like most continental Europeans of his generation, rather poor). This line of research had led to the insight that Jesus had been a disturbed personality. In the middle of adapted myths and man’s natural tendency to religious imaginings, his own personal delusions had partly determined the specific contents of Christianity.
At this point, I can reveal that the book was purposely incomplete. I had intended to add a chapter on a subject quite unknown to Somers, viz. Mohammed. My venerated publisher Sita Ram Goel dissuaded me from going ahead with this, as it was likely to provoke Muslim violence, which would only be contained after it had already done its damage. Years later I did publish a paper on the psychopathology of Mohammed as known through the Islamic sources (i.e. putting in parenthesis the emerging theory that he hadn’t even existed), but because of its unassuming channel of publication and its scholarly title—Wahi, the Supernatural Basis of Islam—it didn’t ruffle any feathers. Meanwhile, the internet has made similar theories about the Prophet, often by ex-Muslims, readily accessible to the Muslim public, so it can be (optimistically) hoped that this type of research may henceforth be done in all freedom.
The book would have been sizable enough if it had limited itself to its chosen subject. However, the author has chosen to add a lengthy appendix about a seemingly unrelated topic, viz. the caste system. The reader should know something about the polemical context in India, essentially the same that diaspora Hindus in the West face.
In the British period, the Hindus had to deal with attacks from the Churches on everything Hindu, including the caste system. Initially, neither the Churches nor the colonial authorities made a problem of the separateness and inequality inherent in caste. After all, both were familiar phenomena in Western society too, with the cleavage between noblemen and commoners, Christians and Jews, freemen and slaves, colonizers and natives, or the steep and compartmentalized class system in the British motherland. After the abolition of slavery, the anti-caste line of discourse was only one among many, typically brought up when addressing low-caste audiences. Today, it has become a monotonous but omnipresent refrain. Hindu-Christian “dialogues”, which the Christians prepare as publicity exercises and as psychological warfare, and where their naïve Hindu partners show up confused and unprepared, usually result in the embarrassment of the Hindus, who becomes hopelessly defensive when the inevitable subject of caste is raised.
To set the record straight, the author draws upon his own personal experience, on his knowledge of the so-called law books of Hinduism, and on writings in Tamil and Sanskrit which would be inaccessible to many readers including diaspora Hindus. He confirms the obvious with the latest data from genetics: castes are biologically distinct units, identifiable subgroups of the human species. He slips, however, when he notes that these are biological groups “and therefore not human creations”. I guess he was not being careful in choosing his terminology here, for even biological groups are the result of the idiosyncrasies of human history. At any rate, the relations between the castes are a lot more nuanced as well as susceptible to change through the centuries. Thus, some untouchable castes had a glorious history and became only “impure” recently, during the Muslim or even the British period. The author demonstrates how, as per the law books they themselves composed, the Brahmins were barred from many pleasures and occupations, not quite how one would imagine a privileged caste. He also shows how the Christian meddling with the caste system objectively demeans rather than uplifts the low castes.
This book is bound to reach the targeted Hindu public in substantial measure. That it has been written by one of their own, will certainly help, though the author’s American setting influences his take on the subject of Christianity. On the other hand, it is very much the need of the hour that Indian Hindus get to know the modern critique of Christianity rather than the silly syrupy views which secular politicians and moronic Babas feed them. This book is really “what every Hindu should know about Christianity”. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 29 May 2014
Filed under: bible, caste, christianity, hindu, religion, USA, values | Tagged: bible, bible criticism, caste, christian history, christianity, critiquing christianity, hindu, hindu-christian dialogue, religion, tambram | 2 Comments »
“Hitler killed six million, Mao Tse-tung killed 45 million, and Stalin deliberately killed an estimated six million civilians. But remember, these 20th century monsters used modern weaponry and an industry-grade killing apparatus. Jesus, on the other hand, simply relies upon a Bronze Age weapon – a sickle, and yet beats these 20th century wimps hands down.” – Kalavai Venkat
Christian propagandists claim that Jesus Christ is a symbol of love and compassion. However, The Bible tells a different story. In Drunk with Blood – God’s Killings in the Bible (pp. 271-274), Steve Wells admirably summarizes the biblical verses that portray Jesus as a bloodthirsty genocidal maniac. Wells is the creator of the famed Skeptic’s Annotated Bible website and funnily informs that he has “spent way too much time analyzing the three worst books (The Bible, The Quran, and The Book of Mormon) ever written.”
Let us now turn to Wells’ analysis of genocide that The Bible warns Jesus is going to unleash upon us. According to The Bible, Jesus would return to the earth holding a sickle in his hand (Revelation 14:14). An angel would tell him that it is time to start a bloody genocide. Another sickle-wielding angel would join Jesus and the duo would start a violent carnage. The blood they spill would cover the ground up to the horses’ bridles in a space of 1,600 furlongs (Revelation 14:15-20).
Now, 1,600 furlongs is about 320 kilometers, and a horse’s bridle is 1.5 meters high or so. If we take the bloodbath to be circular with a diameter of 320 kilometers, then the total volume is 1.2 x 1014 liters. Since an adult has about 5 liters of blood, that gives us 2.4 x 1013 (24 trillion) people. That is 4,000 times more people than what inhabit the earth now. Perhaps Jesus would wait till the population explodes to 24 trillion before unleashing this genocide. My Lord, thy mercy is limitless!
Wells points out that there is another way to estimate the number of dead on the doomsday. This revised estimate might appeal to those who abhor population explosion. According to this contradictory biblical prophecy, Jesus would unleash the might of the sword and hunger to annihilate a fourth of the population (Revelation 6:8). Assuming that the much awaited Second Coming of Jesus happens today, a fourth of the seven billion human beings (i.e., 1.75 billion) would be slaughtered.
Jesus would then let loose four angels, who would massacre one-third of the remaining population (i.e., 1.75 billion). Jesus won’t take the chill pill yet. He would instead command 200 million fire-breathing horsemen to massacre a third of the survivors. In all, 4.7 billion humans would be killed when Jesus returns.
No matter whether one subscribes to the lower limit of 4.7 billion or the upper limit of the incredible 24 trillion, Jesus would be winning the Olympic gold for committing genocides if there were one. Other genocidal maniacs pale in comparison: Hitler killed six million, Mao Tse-tung killed 45 million, and Stalin deliberately killed an estimated six million civilians. But remember, these 20th century monsters used modern weaponry and an industry-grade killing apparatus. Jesus, on the other hand, simply relies upon a Bronze Age weapon – a sickle, and yet beats these 20th century wimps hands down.
Hail Jesus! You are my superstar!
Now imagine a Hindu scripture endorsing such genocides by a Hindu God or Goddess. Christian propagandists and their leftist minions would’ve taken Hinduism to task. But then Christianity, which actually sanctifies genocides, is portrayed as the ‘religion of love.’ The shameless pseudo-intellectual Amartya Sen even infamously proclaimed that indoctrinating children in the violent teachings of Christianity in schools is “perfectly acceptable“ whereas teaching them the wisdom of Hinduism and its harmonious teachings is not. Sen also perversely claimed that Christian indoctrination creates a “tolerant atmosphere.”
Perhaps, Sen hopes that he wouldn’t be among the 4.7 billion victims of Jesus. Alas, I have bad news for the shameless Sen. The Bible says that only 144,000 male Jewish virgins would survive the slaughter (Revelation 14:3-4). Unless Sen is a Jewish virgin male, I am sorry to say that his hopes are misplaced. – IndiaFacts, 27 February 2014
» Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer and a practising agnostic Hindu. He is the author of the forthcoming book What Every Hindu Should Know About Christianity.
Filed under: apocalypse, bible, christianity, god, jesus, psychological warfare, religion | Tagged: apocalypse, bible, book of revelation, christianity, end of time, genocide, god, gospels, jesus christ | 3 Comments »
“The new study again raises the age-old question of biblical accuracy. The phantom camel is just one of many historically jumbled references in the Bible. The Book of Genesis claims the Philistines, the traditional enemy of the Israelites, lived during Abraham’s time. But historians date the Philistines’ arrival to the eastern Mediterranean at about 1200 B.C., 400 years after Abraham was supposed to have lived.” – Elizabeth Dias
Once upon a time, Abraham owned a camel. According to the Book of Genesis, he probably owned lots of camels. The Bible says that Abraham, along with other patriarchs of Judaism and Christianity, used domesticated camels — as well as donkeys, sheep, oxen and slaves — in his various travels and trade agreements. Or did he?
Last week, archaeologists Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University released a new study that dates the arrival of the domesticated camel in the eastern Mediterranean region to the 10th century BCE at the earliest, based on radioactive-carbon techniques. Abraham and the patriarchs, however, lived at least six centuries before then. The New York Times, in a story about the finding today, announced, “There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place … these anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.” Behold, a mystery: the Case of the Bible’s Phantom Camels.
The discovery is actually far from new. William Foxwell Albright, the leading American archeologist and biblical scholar who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in the mid-1900s that camels were an anachronism. Historian Richard Bulliet of Columbia University explored the topic in his 1975 book, The Camel and the Wheel, and concluded that “the occasional mention of camels in patriarchal narratives does not mean that the domestic camels were common in the Holy Land at that period.” Biblical History 101 teaches that the texts themselves were often written centuries after the events they depict.
The new study again raises the age-old question of biblical accuracy. The phantom camel is just one of many historically jumbled references in the Bible. The Book of Genesis claims the Philistines, the traditional enemy of the Israelites, lived during Abraham’s time. But historians date the Philistines’ arrival to the eastern Mediterranean at about 1200 BCE, 400 years after Abraham was supposed to have lived, according to Carol Meyers, professor of religion at Duke University.
Then there’s the case of the great earthquake in the prophetic Book of Zechariah. Geological evidence in archeological sites like Hazor and Gezer in Israel date it to the mid-8th century BCE. But the Book of Zechariah, written several hundred years later, uses the event to talk about what will happen at the end of time, notes Eric Meyers, director of Duke University’s Department of Religious Studies and Carol’s husband.
These anachronisms and historical inaccuracies, however, do not trouble biblical scholars. People in biblical times understood and wrote about their past differently from people in the modern, post-Enlightenment world. “We expect history to provide an accurate narrative of real events,” Carol Meyers explains. “The biblical authors, composers, writers used their creative imaginations to shape their stories, and they were not interested in what actually happened, they were interested in what you could learn from telling about the past.”
The Bible has also never been a history book or a scientific textbook, explains Choon-Leong Seow, professor of Old Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Interpreting the Bible is a little like studying Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, he says. Modern viewers do not consider the Christ figure in da Vinci’s painting an accurate portrait because we know it was painted centuries after the supper happened, but that does not take away from the artist’s spiritual message about Jesus’ last night with his disciples. “For us who believe that this is Scripture, Scripture is important as it has formative power, it forms the people, and it transforms,” Seow says. “It is poetic truth rather than literary truth.”
Understanding the Case of the Phantom Camel as a fight between archeological evidence and biblical narrative misses the entire spiritual point of the text, as far as scholars are concerned. Anachronisms and apocryphal elements do not mean the story is invalid, but instead give insight into the spiritual community in a given time and place. In this case, camels were a sign of wealth and developing trade routes, so it is likely that the biblical writer used the camel as a narrative device to point out power and status. “We needn’t understand these accounts as literally true, but they are very rich in meaning and interpretive power,” Eric Meyers says.
The study is going to ruffle the feathers of people who believe in biblical inerrancy, a doctrine popular among evangelical and other right-orthodoxy movements that says every word in the Bible is literally true. Liberal Judaism and Christianity, says Carol Meyers, often contribute to the problem when they do not look at the complexity of how ancient narratives were formed. Instead of worrying about proving history, she offers this suggestion: “If the Biblical writers are not interested in the facts, but rather in getting a message across, then people of faith can concentrate, instead of trying to verify every last item in the Bible, on what the overall message of the story is, not whether it is historically true or not.”
Case closed. – Time, 11 February 2014
» Elizabeth Dias reports on religion and politics for Time Magazine.
Filed under: archaeology, bible, christianity, judaism, prophet, psychological warfare, religion | Tagged: abraham, abrahamic religions, archaeology, bible, bibliolatry, camels, christianity, history, judaism | 2 Comments »
“Missionary propaganda would leave the impression that Jesus was a mighty figure who took the world by storm as soon as he appeared on the scene. However, the ‘solid historical figure’ melts into thin air at the first brush with modern historical research. Biblical and Christological research undertaken in the West during the last two and a half centuries has cast doubt on the historicity of every aspect of the life of Jesus, including his existence as a historical person.” – Virendra Parekh
“Let me tell you at the outset that Jesus is no mythological mumbo-jumbo like your Rama and Krishna, and even Buddha. On the contrary, he was a solid historical figure whose miracles were witnessed and vouchsafed by many contemporary people,” said a Jesuit missionary to Sita Ram Goel. Let us have a closer look at this ‘solid historical figure’.
Historicity of Jesus as described in Gospels has been one of the principal dogmas of all Christian denominations. Now, as Ram Swarup used to say, historicity by itself does not mean much. You and I are historical persons, but that fact by itself does not confer greatness or any other virtue on us. However, when historicity of the founder is touted as a point of superiority, we are inclined to examine it a little more closely.
The missionary propaganda would leave the impression that Jesus was a mighty figure who took the world by storm as soon as he appeared on the scene. However, the ‘solid historical figure’ melts into thin air at the first brush with modern historical research. Biblical and Christological research undertaken in the West during the last two and a half centuries has cast doubt on the historicity of every aspect of the life of Jesus, including his existence as a historical person.
Albert Schweitzer, the world famous theologian and missionary, admitted that, “There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of the God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth and died to give his work final consecration, never had any existence. This image has not been destroyed from without. It has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by concrete historical problems which came to surface one after the other and … refused to be palmed down to fit the design on which Jesus of the theology has been constructed…”
Silence of the Pagans
The history of ancient Rome has been recorded in great detail. There is a vast body of historical and philosophical literature written in or referring to the time-frame when Jesus is supposed to have walked the earth. But that literature is oblivious of the mighty figure called Jesus Christ. Seneca (2 BC-66 AD), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Martial (40-102 AD), Plutarch (45-125 AD), Juvenal (55-140 AD), Apuleius (d. 170 AD), Pausanius (d. 185 AD) and Dio Casius (155-240 AD) do not mention any Jesus or Christ. Epictetus (50-100 AD) refers to Galileans starting with Judas the Galilean who led the Jewish revolt against Rome in the first decade of the First Century, but not to Jesus of Nazareth who is supposed to have come from Galilee shortly afterwards. There is no reference to any Jesus in any pagan work of the time.
“The name of Seneca, of the elder and the younger Pliny, of Tacitus, of Plutarch, of Galen, of the slave Epictetus, and the emperor Marcus Antonius, adorn the age in which they flourished, and exalt the dignity of human nature…. Yet all these sages (it is no less an object of surprise than of concern) overlooked or rejected the perfection of the Christian system….” says Edward Gibbon in his classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Read it between the lines to grasp what he wants to convey to a largely Christian readership without causing offence. He adds, equally meaningfully, “those among them who condescend to mention the Christians consider them only as obstinate and perverse enthusiasts who exacted an implicit submission to their mysterious doctrines without being able to produce a single argument that could engage the attention of men of sense and learning.”
There are a few words or stray passages referring to “Chrestus” or his worshippers in Pliny the Younger (60-114 AD), Tacitus (55-120 AD), Suetonius (70-120 AD) and Sulpicius Severus (d. 400 AD). The word “Chrestus” (“good” or “agreeable”) was used as an appellation for characters belonging to several sects. It did not mean anything like ‘Christ’ or ‘Christos’. That alone can explain the attempt by a Christian scribe to scratch the “e” in Chrestus and replace it by an “i” in a manuscript of Tacitus.
Critical scrutiny has shown that all these references either do not relate to Jesus of Nazareth, or are influenced by Christian tradition, or are clever Christian fabrications. Ian Wilson concludes that “in all this there is scarcely a crumb of information to compel a belief in Jesus’ existence”. Paul Johnson comments that fabrications “occur throughout the history of Christianity up to Renaissance and even beyond”.
Sita Ram Goel has pointed out that word “Christian” does not appear in the Christian literature itself before 140 AD. On the other hand, anti-Christian polemics which appears for the first time around 160 AD, starts by questioning the existence of a character called Jesus Christ.
As per Christian tradition, Jesus was a Jew who lived in Palestine during the first 30 or 33 years of the era which is supposed to have begun from the year of his birth. One would expect him to get a pride of place in the writings of Jewish historians who lived and wrote during the same period or a little later. It is, therefore, strange that they are silent on Jesus or the religion he is said to have founded. Philo (20 BC-54 AD), who wrote a history of the Jews, knows no Jesus Christ and no Christians. Nor does another historian of the same period, Justus of Tiberius.
The most interesting case is that of Flavius Josephus who lived from AD 36 or 37 to 99 or 100. He has authored two monumental works – The Jewish War in 77 AD and the Antiquities of the Jews in 92 AD – which are regarded as a major source for the history of Palestine in the first century. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, his works have been doctored by Christian scribes to impart a semblance of historicity to Jesus. Christian apologists point to two passages, one long and the other very short, which mention Jesus as a wise man and also as Christ. But scholars have proved quite convincingly that both of them are either clumsy Christian interpolations or have been tampered with by Christian scribes.
Here they are as they occur in the modern editions of Antiquities of Jews.
(1) Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was doer of miraculous works…. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of many of the principal men amongst us, (i.e. Jews) condemned him to cross (April 3, 33 AD), those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day (April 5, 33 AD)…. (VII, III.3)
The dates in the passage are those which are held by the modern Church, they are not supplied by Josephus. The whole passage is a later interpolation. According to Prof. C.K. Barrett, “The authenticity of Josephus’s reference to Jesus as it stands now is very questionable. The passage is found in all the manuscripts (but none is older than eleventh century) and was known to Eusebius (fourth century) but Origen (first half of the third century) does not seem to have read it, at least in its present form, since he plainly tells us that Josephus did not believe Jesus to be the Christ.”
(2) … so he (Ananus, the High Priest) assembled the Sanhedrin (assembly) of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, … and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of law, he delivered them to be stoned…. (XX IX.1)
The authenticity and credibility of this passage is also dubious because its account of the character of James (as a law breaker) and his death (by stoning) is contradicted by other early accounts.
The vast rabbinical literature of the Jews, composed during the first two and a quarter centuries of the Christian era, contains only five authentic references to Jesus. But they “do not conclusively establish his historicity, as none of them is sufficiently early”. Moreover, “they are so vague in their chronology that they differ by as much as 200 years in the dates they assign to him”. None of the five Jesuses fits the Christian scheme of Jesus Christ’s birth or life or death. The Talmud betrays no knowledge of Jesus independent of the Christian tradition, and it is conceded by most Christian scholars that it “is useless as a source of information about Jesus”.
The quotation marks in the sub-title are used advisedly. In traditions influenced by Christianity, the phrase ‘gospel truth’ signifies something absolutely certain, beyond the pale of doubt. However, the evidence of Jesus’ historicity as provided by gospels is so full of contradictions and inconsistencies as to provide good reason to doubt everything about him, including his existence. These have been noticed not just by sceptics and agnostics, but also by ardent believers. As far back as the fourth century, St. Augustine had said that “only on the authority of the Church could he believe the Gospels.”
Ian Wilson, a practising Catholic, says: “it does not need anyone with a Ph.D. in theology to recognize that the Christian Gospels can scarcely be the infallible works fundamentalists would have us believe”.
Will Durant says: “In summary, it is clear that there are many contradictions between one Gospel and another, many dubious statements of history, many suspicious resemblances to the legends told of pagan gods, many incidents apparently designed to prove the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, many passages possibly aiming to establish a historical basis for some later doctrine or ritual of the Church.”
Purely by way of illustration, let us see what Gospels say on most elementary details about Jesus.
(a) Genealogy of Jesus: Two of the four Gospels – Matthew and Luke – give the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew lists the supposed ancestors from Abraham onwards (1.1-16). Luke traces Jesus’ supposed ancestors all the way to Adam and thence to God. Abraham, of course, figures in his list, too. When we compare the two lists, we find that in Matthew there are 39 generations between Abraham and Jesus. In Luke there are 55 generations between Abraham and Jesus. Matthew lists 27 generations between David and Jesus, Luke lists 42. Of the 26 names that occur between David and Jesus in Matthew, only four occur in Luke – and three others with similar spellings. And even among these few names, the order differs. And yet both the lists, as they occur in the Gospels, emanate from God and must be true.
(b) Year of Birth: Then again, in which year was Jesus born? “Jesus was born … during the time when Herod was king,” says Matthew (2.1). Now Herod died in 3 BC. That would place birth of Jesus in 4 BC or 3 BC at the latest. “It was the fifteenth year of the rule of Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, Herod was the ruler of Galilee and his brother Philip was….” says Luke (3.1-3) These verses put the date of Jesus’ birth to 2 or 1 BC. The same Gospel also tells us that “at that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the Governor was Syria….” (Luke 2.1-3). Now, a census did take place when Quirinius was Governor of Syria. But that happened in 6 or 7 AD. But all these dates – 4 or 3 BC, 2 or 1 BC or 6 or 7 AD – must be taken as having God as their authors since they occur in the Gospels.
Look at the basic contradiction in the twin claims about Jesus being the descendant of David, and also being born of a virgin mother. If Jesus was born of a virgin, if Joseph had nothing to do with his being conceived then how can his descent be traced through Joseph to David?
Such contradictions and discrepancies mark every stage, every event in the life of Jesus: the place of his birth, the date of his birth, his ministry, his miracles, his trial, his crucifixion and resurrection. It is neither possible nor necessary to list all of them here.
Biblical scholars have compiled them with great diligence. The findings and conclusions of their research are available to anyone with relatively small effort. Among others, for example, Arun Shourie has documented them in great detail in his Harvesting Our Souls: Missionaries, Their Design, their claims (ASA Publications, New Delhi, 2000). Small wonder that no responsible theologian or historian is now prepared to construct the life-story of Jesus from material provided by the gospels.
“But that is the whole point. You are nit-picking, going on and on about the discrepancies among the accounts of an event in different gospels. The details of Gospels are not what is important. What matters is the figure of faith that they weave,” the missionaries would say.
Although this is a somersault from tall claims about a solid figure of history as opposed to mythological mumbo-jumbo, we would let it pass. There is no doubt that millions of Christians through the ages have derived solace and guidance from the Gospels.
The Hindu response to this argument would be: if faith is what is important, what is the reason to prefer Jesus over, say, Ram or Krishna? As figures of faith they too have sustained millions upon millions of people for far longer than Jesus. Moreover, they have done so without the help of the highly aggressive, well-oiled and well-heeled machinery of the church. What is the need for conversion if one figure of faith is to be replaced with another?
- History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: AD 304 to 1996, by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996
- Missionaries in India, Arun Shourie, ASA Publications, New Delhi, 1994
- Hindu View of Christianity and Islam, Ram Swarup, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1992
- Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression, Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994
- Profiles in Deception: Ayodhya and Dead Sea Scrolls, N. S. Rajaram, Voice of India, New Delhi 2000
- The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer, English translation London 1910 reprint 1945 p. 397
- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon Modern Library edition p. 442
- An Analysis of Christian Origins, Georges Ory, London, 1961, pp. 33 and fn 38
- Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan Books 1985, p. 51
- A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson, Penguin Books, London, 1978, pp. 26-27
- Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression, Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994, First Reprint 2001, p. 5
- The New Testament Background, ed. C. K. Barret p. 277
- Did Jesus Exist?, G.A. Wells, 1986, p.12 with reference to J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, London, 1925, and M. Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, New York, 1950, as quoted by Sita Ram Goel in Jesus: An Artifice for Aggression, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994, p. 4
- An Analysis of Christian Origins, Georges Ory, London, 1961, p. 39
- Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan Books, 1985, p. 30
- The Story of Civilisation, Part III, Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, Fourth Printing, New York, pp. 556-57
» Virendra Parekh is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai.
This sign board was put up in 2009 by St Matthew-in-the-City Church, Auckland, New Zealand. The archdeacon explained that it was intended to provoke conversation among Christians about the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
Filed under: bible, gospels, hindu, hinduism, history, india, jesus, psychological warfare, religion | Tagged: bible, christmas, gospels, hindu, historicity of jesus, history, jesus christ, krishna, prophetism, rama, religion, sita ram goel | 4 Comments »
About Joseph Atwill: While studying the two most prominent works of the 1st century – Josephus’ Wars of the Jews and the Gospels – Joseph Atwill noticed a series of parallels occurring in sequence between the military campaign of the Roman Caesar Titus Flavius and the ministry of Jesus. His findings led him to a startling new conclusion about the origins of Christianity – that a Roman imperial family, the Flavians, had created Christianity to pacify the Jews’ rebellion against Rome, and even more incredibly, they had placed a literary satire within the Gospels and Wars of the Jews to inform posterity of this fact.
The results of Atwill’s research are set out in his book Caesar’s Messiah. The second edition of Caesar’s Messiah became the best-selling work of religious history in the US in 2007, and its German translation Das Messias Ratsel achieved #1 Best Seller status. The Flavian Signature edition of Caesar’s Messiah adds the most detailed presentation of the parallels Atwill discovered between the works of Josephus and the Book of Luke. His upcoming book, The Single Strand, is slated to be published by Ulstein, and a documentary film based on Caesar’s Messiah was released in 2011 [see video below]. Atwill is an avid chess player, having more than 100 victories over Grandmasters and International Masters, and holding an ICC Masters rating of 2358. — Excerpted from Joseph Atwill’s Blog
When I speak with Christians, many describe the spiritual growth their relationship with Jesus has given them. I know they are sincere but I always wonder how they would feel about Jesus if they were forced to take an Oath of Fealty to his earthly representative.
A 7th century Anglo-Saxon “Oath of Fealty” between a serf and his lord still exists. It states: “By the Lord before whom this sanctuary is holy, I will be true and faithful, and love all which he loves and shun all which he shuns, according to the laws of God and the order of the world. Nor will I ever with will or action, through word or deed, do anything which is unpleasing to him, on condition that he will hold to me as I shall deserve it, and that he will perform everything as it was in our agreement when I submitted myself to him and chose his will.”
Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believe God decreed their slavery. From their position as the “Pontifex Maximus” – the official title for Caesar’s position as head of the pagan college of Roman priests – the Pontiffs of the Roman Catholic Church oversaw the feudal system wherein Christianized serfs gave their work product to the authorities without complaint. Their docility was caused by the fact that they were Christians and therefore believed the Apostle Paul when he wrote: “slaves should be obedient to their masters in everything”. (Titus, 2)
Though serfs were indeed slaves – the word “serf” can be traced back to the Latin word servus, meaning “slave” – the group that became serfs did not start out as slaves and were originally called coloni (sing. colonus), a Latin word meaning a farmer who farmed his own land. (One interesting etymological point is that the word “colonized” was first used to depict a colonus changing wild land into farm land.)
When Rome was a Republic the coloni had numerous rights including the ability to sell their land, but these freedoms steadily eroded during the imperial era. Around 300 CE the Caesar Diocletian implemented a tax that unified a plot of land with its inhabitants. It thereby became more difficult for coloni to sell their plots.
In 306 CE, upon the death of his father Constantius, Constantine became co-Emperor with his brother-in-law Maxentius. The two were bitter rivals however, and war soon broke out. Before the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE, Constantine had his famous but absurd vision in which Christ purportedly instructed him to place a particular sign on the battle standards of his army. This symbol was called the Chi Rho (the Chi Rho superimposed the first two letters of the Greek word “ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ” or Christ in such a way to produce a monogram that invoked the crucifixion of Jesus) and was described by Eusebius as “a long spear, overlaid with gold, which included a bar crossing the spear to form the shape of the Christian cross. On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Savior’s name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of the initial letters, the letter X intersection P at the center.” Included with the banner were the words: “In hoc signo vinces” (in this sign thou shalt conquer).
Armed with the “power of Jesus”, Constantine defeated his rival and became dictator. His reign is best remembered for the Edict of Milan in 313, which fully legalized Christianity, and the Council of Nicea, which he chaired in 325, that began the era where the religion enjoyed the power of the Roman state.
Because of his assistance in making Christianity the state religion, Constantine enjoys a positive historical legacy. In fact he was among the most wicked men in history [emphasis ours]. What has been overlooked by historians is that his efforts on behalf of Christianity were just one half of his legal “reforms” and when one half is juxtaposed to the other an entirely different picture emerges. Constantine used Christianity to make the enslavement of most of the European population acceptable to the victims because it was an act of God.
Constantine’s other edicts were the true beginning of medieval serfdom. They officially ended the coloni’s ability to sell their land but bound them to it forever. Another set of edicts forbade the lower classes from changing profession. Constantine thereby froze an unfair society into place. And to prevent any intellectual resistance from the newly created slaves, Constantine also began the process that made Christianity the state religion. When viewed in their true historical context, it is self-evident that the sole purpose for the specific combination of Constantine’s edicts was to enslave serfs and make rebellion a sin.
Below is the order of rank that Constantine’s edicts created – the Feudal System :
Eventually the degradation of the coloni’s legal status to serf was formalized with the creation of a ceremony known as “bondage”. During the ceremony a serf placed his head in the lord’s hands – akin to the ceremony where a vassal placed his hands between those of his overlord. The serf would then swear oaths that bound him to his lord in a feudal contract which defined the terms of his slavery. Thus, the Oath of Fealty, which still exists to this day, producing an attitude of servitude in those who willingly submit to the authority structure. – Joseph Atwill’s Blog, 24 October 2013
My upcoming work The Single Strand explains the mysterious NT character ‘Paul’. The first mystery concerning Paul is why did the author of Acts change his name from ‘Saul’ to ‘Paul’, a word that means ‘tiny’. The truth behind Saul’s nickname is vicious humor that makes fun of the fact that Paul was not merely circumcised but castrated. The story of Paul’s castration is black comedy and is given in Acts 13 1-9.
Prior to the scene in Acts 13 Saul/Paul had attacked a member of the ‘way’ – Stephan – who has been preaching for ‘Jesus’, in other words, Stephan had been preaching for the Flavian Christ. Following this event Saul shows up in Antioch with a group that includes a ‘stepbrother’ of Herod. Then the ‘Holy Spirit’, for some reason, orders Saul ‘separated’ – the Greek word used can also mean ‘severed’ – and the group then “placed their hands on him” – the word used for “placed” can also mean ‘attack’. Following the event Saul becomes ‘Paul’, a word that means ‘tiny’. In other words, Paul has been ‘severed’ – or castrated – by the group led by Herod’s ‘stepbrother’ as revenge for his participation in the attack on a member of the ‘Way’ – the Caesars’ version of Judaism. This was how Saul became ‘Tiny’.
To digress, this analysis shows not only the reason why the Romans named the character ‘Paul’, but why they gave him his original name of ‘Saul’. Saul was the Jewish king that had demanded David obtain ‘a hundred Gentile foreskins’ and the Romans named their character ‘Saul’ to imply that his ‘circumcision’ involved – like the one ordered by his OT ‘forerunner’ – more than a single foreskin. The author of Acts ‘clarifies’ the relationship by actually mentioning the OT Saul in the passage where ‘Saul’ becomes ‘Tiny’ – Acts 13:21. The author also notes that the OT Saul’s reign had the space of forty years. This ‘foresees’ the forty years between the beginning of Paul’s ‘ministry’ at approximately 40 CE and the start of Domitian’s reign in 81 CE – a roughly forty-year cycle parallel to the one which linked Jesus to Titus.
This analysis enables the real nature of ‘Paul’ to be understood. Paul begins as ‘Saul’, a messianic rebel fighting against the ‘Way’, which is the Flavians’ Christ cult, but has an epiphany and is ‘converted’ to belief in ‘Christ Jesus’, in other words he understands that Caesar is the Christ. – Joseph Atwill’s Blog, 9 April 2013
Video: Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy To Invent Jesus
- Contact Joe Atwill by email at email@example.com
Filed under: apostles, bible, christianity, gospels, history, jesus, judaism, nationalism, pagan, politics, pope, psychological warfare, religion, roman catholic church, scholarship, vatican | Tagged: Apostle Paul, birth of christianity, caesar, christianity, constantine, flavian dynasty, historicity of jesus, israel, jesus, jesus christ, jews, josephus, political religion, politics, pope, religion, roman emperor constantine, roman empire | 4 Comments »
“Theology is the distinctive contribution and concern of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Christianity it has been taken to such stratospheric heights that for an outsider at least it is hard to see what it is that keeps it afloat. In the currently fashionable interfaith dialogues, Christian scholars often begin by telling Hindus that theology is to Christianity what Vedanta is to Hinduism. Nothing could be further from the truth though gullible Hindu intellectuals are easily flattered by the comparison.” — Dr. N.S. Rajaram
R.S. Sugirtharajah is a Sri Lankan Christian scholar who until recently was professor of Biblical Hermeneutics at the University of Birmingham in England. This probably makes him a hermeneutician—something like a beautician perhaps or better still a politician. For those unused to hair-splitting exercises of Biblical hermeneutics, exegeses and exegetes, it is easier to think of him as a theologian engaged in analysing interpretations of the Bible with reference to history and philosophy.
Theology is the distinctive contribution and concern of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Christianity it has been taken to such stratospheric heights that for an outsider at least it is hard to see what it is that keeps it afloat. In the currently fashionable interfaith dialogues, Christian scholars often begin by telling Hindus that theology is to Christianity what Vedanta is to Hinduism. Nothing could be further from the truth though gullible Hindu intellectuals are easily flattered by the comparison.
Vedanta is an open-ended exploration of the meaning of the universe and our existence that acknowledges only the universal truth contained in the Vedas. Theology on the other hand is a closed system which is bounded by the text of the Bible and the dogmas of Christianity. All the resources of logic and sophistry are used to justify Christianity as the only truth. One challenges theology at one’s peril as Galileo and Giordano Bruno found out. The freedom of Vedanta often brings it close to metaphysics which explains why great physicists like Opperheimer, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, David Bohm and others were drawn to it. Theology may be hermeneutics, but it certainly has no metaphysics.
This background is necessary to understand what the author is trying to achieve in his sad little book. As he correctly points out Christianity is Asiatic in origin, more specifically West Asian, but “its influence in Europe and the Americas has received far more attention than its complex career in the East.” Even in India it has a longer history than in Europe beginning in the fourth century or later with the arrival of the merchant Thomas of Cana— not the mythical St. Thomas who supposedly came to Kerala in 58 AD when neither Christianity nor the Christian Bible existed. Fortunately the author is a serious scholar and does not peddle this nonsense.
Add to this the fact, which the author does not stress, the decline of Christianity in the West amounting almost to a collapse in Europe, forcing the churches to recruit Asians to fill its emptying seminaries, churches and hospitals. These could not exist without massive infusion from countries like India and the Philippines. For all practical purposes Christianity today is a third world religion. The Catholic Church at least has recognized this in electing the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the latest Pope.
For all this Christian institutions have failed to treat Asian theologians as equals. They may be useful and even indispensable but as the author points out they are repeatedly told “only the West matters,” meaning they should toe the line set by their Western masters. By ‘Western’ they don’t mean African-American, Hispanic or anyone else but white European and American. This is racism in all but name though they dare not display such attitudes towards outsiders—to individuals and groups outside Christianity. In interfaith dialogues they make a great show of the ‘equality’ of the churches.
This is a carry-over from colonial days during which Asian and African converts and missionaries wholeheartedly cooperated with the ruling Christian powers. They are being repaid for this loyalty with contempt and ingratitude. As the author observes, in pre-colonial days the Bible was receptive to Asian sources like the Upanishads and the Lao Tzu, but European colonization of Asia and Africa changed all that:
“With the emergence of modern colonialism the Bible was introduced as an artifact of modernity in the form of the King James Bible, the ‘national Bible’ of the English people. In this incarnation, the Bible became a very European book, lost all its oriental traits, and became less Asiatic. … The imported ‘white man’s book’ was seen as a strange instrument, an entrapment to lure them away from their own traditions.” As a result, an Asian reading of the Bible is always a contrived one and not as natural as a Hindu reading of the Bhagavad Gita or a Buddhist reading of the Dhammapada.”
As a result, all that Asian servants of Christianity have earned for their decades of loyalty is life in a limbo with no independent identity except as courtiers and camp followers in an essentially colonial, even racist institution in the post-colonial world. It is to these lost souls that Bible and Asia is addressed. And this is what makes it particularly sad reading.
The author’s advice to his fellow Asian theologians is to reclaim Christianity for Asians by going back to its Hindu and Buddhist sources. Curiously he makes no mention of Gnostic sources that had at least as great an influence on the growth of Christianity as Hindu and Buddhist thought. Perhaps as an Asiatic the author finds Gnosticism to be alien while finding Hindu and Buddhist thought more congenial. Perhaps he believes other Asian Christians will share the same feeling.
How sound is his advice to claim Christianity as their own by invoking their ancestral Asian sources? Here is a pointer. For at least a century, Western Indologists have been telling Indians, Hindus in particular how to read and interpret their history and tradition by creating interpretations based on the Aryan invasion bringing Vedic ideas from Europe. When Hindu scholars contested this by pointing out contradictions from the Sarasvati River to the Harappan archaeology, Western scholars fought a fierce academic and propaganda battle until they could no longer sustain them against mounting evidence.
Will such people yield control of their Bible to Asians? Based on personal experience with scholars like Michael Witzel of Harvard it is a pipe dream. When logic and evidence failed they resorted to personal attacks. Theologians will be no better, perhaps worse.
Here is a more practical option. Instead of using Hindu and Buddhist scripture to gain control of Biblical theology, make the Gita, the Upanishads and the Dhammapada your own. There will be no opposition for they belong to everyone. Who in this day and age needs theology and dogma anyway? Why be satisfied as someone else’s courtiers and camp followers when you have the matchless philosophic treasures of your own—which you gave up in return for small gains and false promises? Why beg when you can be the owners of the richest philosophical treasures the world has ever known?
Filed under: asia, bhagavad gita, bible, buddhism, christianity, church, gnosticism, hindu, india, philosophy, psychological warfare, religion, roman catholic church, theology | Tagged: asian theologians, biblical hermeneutics, buddhist scriptures, christian theology, christianity and colonialism, dogma, gnosticism, hermeneutics, hindu scriptures, r s sugirtharajah, religion, theology | 12 Comments »