Jesus. Where to start?
First off, there is absolutely no independent evidence that Jesus, the man, ever existed. There is no record of him in the Roman, Assyrian, Egyptian or even Grecian archives. Whatever we know about him we find in the Bible and like writings written hundreds of years after his supposed life. Everything we find in our nightstand Bible is an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation of copies of letters written many years after his death by people who never met him.
Personally, I believe Jesus did exist but I don’t think he was quite the person modern Christianity has made him out to be.
I know this is a touchy subject for many but there are just too many things in the Jesus narrative for me to ignore. At times it may sound like I’m totally dissing Jesus but, believe me, I’m not. Jesus is my go-to guy.
What I will be doing is pointing out a host of inconsistencies and false premises that seem to be consistently glossed over when Christian doctrine is discussed. When I first read the Bible I was stunned at how the actual teachings and meaning of Jesus’ life were quite different from what I’d been led to believe.
So if you can cut me a little slack, just hang in there for a bit. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I have to say but, if you’ve gotten this far, I’d ask you to at least carry on for curiosity’s sake if nothing else.
Before we get started, there are certain ‘givens‘ literalist Christians hold when it comes to Jesus. One is that Jesus was born of a virgin whom God himself impregnated and thus Jesus was the one and only “begotten” son of God. And secondly, the only way we can be accepted by God is if we believe Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. Basically he was a human sacrifice.1
And why is that particular sacrifice necessary, you may ask? Because, as we’ve discussed before, the concept of balancing the scales and making things right with God through sacrifice was a widely held practice for a very long time.2 And it had to be something you really valued. That’s why it had to be a cow or a sheep “without blemish” You couldn’t just offer up any old goat; it had to be the best one.
In many ancient cultures ‘offering up’ the first born male to the Gods was common practice. You can’t give up anything much more precious than your first born son, right? Moses put a stop to that but apparently, in Jesus’ case, God felt it necessary to revive that particular gruesome custom. The entire basis of Christianity rests on Jesus being a sacrifice for our sins.
If you’ll remember back in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Moses laid out a bunch of laws and specified a boat load of sacrifices for the people to offer up to God so he would forgive them for their human shortcomings. It’s like God knew that people would never be able to keep all the rules but if they gave him a present once in a while he’d call it square.
But the people weren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. By the time Jesus came along a lot of time had gone by since Moses laid down the law and God was realizing his chosen people just couldn’t keep up.
So, according to the narrative, God figured he’d send his son down to earth to die a horrible death and that would settle the sacrifice issue once and for all. No need to kill any more goats or cows, just believe Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and you’re good to go. But if you don’t believe it, all bets are off and you’re screwed worse than ever.
Personally, that scenario never made sense to me. But that doesn’t matter because there are a whole lot of people who believe Jesus is their salvation. Who am I to argue? Well, that’s kinda what I’m doing here, so here goes.
I’m going to address all this and more but before we get started, here’s a shocker; none of what Jesus taught was for anyone other than the Israelites. Just like Moses’ law was only for the Jews, Jesus’ whole ministry was meant only for the Jews. Why do I say that? Because Jesus says so himself.
Matthew 15:24 – But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
So that takes all the heat off the Gentiles3 among us. There are plenty who would argue otherwise but, I hate to say it, there it is in black and white.
If we’re going to take the Bible literally, I can follow Jesus’ teachings if I so choose, but I’m under no obligation to do so.
Whatever you think about Christianity, it wasn’t created by Jesus anyway, it was created by a guy named Paul, who was a contemporary of Jesus. Paul distorted the message and twisted the narrative so he could take his rather brilliant message of forgiveness to Greece and Rome. The Jews wanted nothing to do with him and didn’t believe a word of it. After all, Paul wasn’t even a disciple. We’ll talk more about that later.
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble right off the bat but, for the record, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. The early Christians never acknowledged a day of birth and most experts agree the day is more symbolic than actual fact.
That particular day was chosen by early Christians to coincide with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. It gave Christians a reason to celebrate with all their neighbors while not technically celebrating a pagan holiday. Much like Easter allowed them to celebrate at the same time as their pagan neighbors were celebrating the Spring equinox. When the Romans took control of Christianity they basically codified it and so it was forevermore.
So what about the actual birth? I’ll get into the virgin birth thing in a bit but right now I just want to address the actual birth.
Most of us have heard about the three wise men and the shepherds and the manger, the star and no room at the inn. That’s always how it’s depicted in those nativity scenes we see on Christmas cards and on people’s front lawns during the Christmas season. If you go to church you’ve probably seen the Sunday school kids act it out more than once.
The fact is, there are two distinct versions of Jesus’ actual birth, one in Matthew and one in Luke, and neither one of them is anywhere near the same. The Christmas tale you learned about as a kid is a combination of the two versions. Most people don’t look deeper into it than that, so let’s do so now.
In Matthew’s version we have the three wise men who have come from the East, following a star that proclaims the coming of the king of the Jews.
These wise men came to Herod, the Roman king in charge, and asked him where this new king was. Needless to say, Herod was not too happy about a new king in town but he told the wise men to go find this newborn king and, when they did, come back and tell him so he could go worship him himself. Of course, it was a trick so Herod could kill this new threat to his throne.
So the wise men went off, following the star until it settled over the house where Jesus had just been born. We all know a star can’t settle over a house but this is where that Christmas card image comes from. Was it symbolic? Were the people who made this up so ignorant they didn’t know any better? It makes a good story but we’ll never know for sure. One thing we do know for sure, a star can’t settle over a house4. I’m sure more than a few would-be scientists were tortured back in the Middle Ages for even suggesting such a thing.
However they did it, the wise men found the house and gave Jesus’ mom and dad, Mary and Joseph, a bunch of presents; gold, frankincense and myrrh to be specific.
They must have let on that they’d stopped off to see Herod because everybody took off knowing Herod was out to kill this threat to his kingdom. We don’t know where the wise men went, presumably back home, but Matthew says Mary, Joseph and Jesus took off for Egypt to hide out.
Once Herod died Joseph brought his family back to Nazareth. This coming out of Egypt is a big deal in Christian prophecy so this story meets that criteria.
That’s pretty much it for Matthew.
In Luke’s version we get the ‘no room at the inn’ scenario where Mary gives birth in a barn and the baby Jesus is laid in the manger.
The reason they’re in Bethlehem in the first place is because the Roman governor, Quirinius, called for a census. To take the census everybody had to go back to their hometown to be counted. The problem with this is there was no such census taken during the time of Herod.5 No literalist scholars have been able to reconcile this errant information. Most historians think the author of this account was confused and didn’t really know their history.6
Beside making for a good story, according to prophecy it’s important that Jesus be born in Bethlehem and be of the house of David. This scenario covers both of those bases. We’ll come back to this later.
Also in Luke’s scenario, a group of shepherds were out in the field when they were visited by some angels who told them of the glorious event. So the shepherds went into town and found the house7 and, sure enough, there was a baby in swaddling cloth laying in a manger. The newborn king.
After eight days, the baby Jesus was taken to the priest to be circumcised. Mary and Joseph performed the required sacrifices for a firstborn son and returned to Nazareth.
Even to a casual observer, it’s pretty obvious these stories outright contradict each other.
In Matthew, it’s wise men who find the baby by using astrology, incidentally a practice specifically outlawed by Moses, and, after the birth, Mary and Joseph take their baby to Egypt to escape the vengeance of Herod. No mention of a census or manger.
But in Luke it’s shepherds who find the baby at the direction of angels and Mary and Joseph don’t take Jesus to Egypt at all, they just go home to Nazareth.
I’ve actually read a book where someone weaves these stories into one narrative with the reasoning that neither author knew all the details so if you just combine all the stuff together you get the real picture. I guess that’s one way to reconcile the inconsistencies. Pretty weak if you ask me. I’d hate to go to court with a story like that.
It’s a good bet that, since none of the details match, both stories were based on a common legend where the facts got twisted as the story spread to different regions and congregations.
These two versions of Jesus’ birth were written at least a hundred years after the fact by people who’d never met him nor knew anyone who had. These are legends that had grown up around his birth, much like the two versions of Creation and the two versions of Saul and David. Even though they openly contradict each other it was obviously important enough to the people who compiled the Bible8 that both versions be included.
There’s another thing about Luke’s version that most people don’t know but struck me the first time I read it.
You might have heard about John the Baptist, have you? John was the son of a priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. John was a bit eccentric to say the least. He wore clothes made from camel hair, lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey. Eccentric is probably being generous.
Anyway, John would rant on about the kingdom of God being at hand and for some reason people dug it. They’d come in droves out to the river so he could baptize them. This is the first we hear about baptizing. Nobody really knows what John’s method was but we know he dunked them in the water and that symbolically washed away their sins.
Well, as it turns out John and Jesus were related. Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt so that would make John Mary’s cousin, right? I think that makes John Jesus’ first cousin once removed. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure how that stuff works. The point is they were related by blood. In fact Mary was pregnant with Jesus while Elizabeth was pregnant with John so Jesus and John were the same age. Did they grow up together? Did they play together? We’ll never know but it’s pretty probable.
Two things are important about this that I’ve never heard anyone mention. If Zechariah was a priest he had to be a descendant of Aaron. Remember Aaron? He was Moses’ brother, the original High Priest. And Elizabeth is specifically identified as a daughter of Aaron. I’m just going out on a limb here but since Mary is directly related to these people it is highly probable that she was also a descendant of the priestly class and by extension that would make Jesus also related by blood to the descendants of Aaron. The point I’m making is, it’s more than likely Jesus, by birth, was a Levite and a member of the priestly class.
This would explain his in-depth knowledge of Jewish law and his ability to debate with scholars on the steps of the Temple when he was only twelve years old.9 Chances are very good Jesus had all the education afforded the priestly class. Even though we think of him as being a lowly carpenter’s son, it’s more likely he was a priest in training well versed in the Temple system.
Many people will talk about the prophecy of Jesus being a descendant of David and I’ll get back to that later but, for now, just think about it. The ramifications are staggering and will explain some of the stuff we hear about Jesus later on when we talk about prophecy.
Okay, there, I said it. Jesus is not God, at least in the way most literalists think about it. Personally I think we are all God. As the old saying goes, “I am not all of God, but God is all of me.”
Jesus basically says the same thing when he quotes Psalms; “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are gods’.”
But for Christian literalists there is God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. They are each part of what’s called ‘The Trinity’ and they are all basically co-equal. Actually, the way it’s taught is that God is at the top and Jesus, because he sacrificed himself, is the only way for us lowly human beings to reconcile with God.
For Christian literalists it’s very important that Jesus is not just a regular guy. He is the great exception, conceived directly from the seed of God, the only begotten son of God. At the time of Jesus, being the first born son was a really big deal. He basically inherited everything but was also responsible for the family.
Jesus, being the first born son of God, apparently got some extra magical powers. He could heal the sick, feed the hungry, raise the dead, and wipe away our sins.
So where do I start?
First off, in ancient times it was common for emperors, kings and Pharaohs to deify themselves and insist on their own God-hood. If they knew what was good for them, their subjects would bow down and act accordingly whether they believed it or not.
The Roman rulers of Jesus’ time were no different and the Israelites were no strangers to the tradition. Deifying a ruler was common and not as big a deal as we make it out to be.
So it’s no surprise when certain early Christian cults, having already proclaimed him ‘the Christ’, would take the next step of declaring Jesus divine.
But Jesus never bought into that. He never professed his divinity and constantly refused to count himself as equal to God. He did say he was ‘one’ with God, but that’s not the same. We’ll delve more into that later too.
So here I’ve listed a bunch of quotes taken directly from the Bible where Jesus himself acknowledges the fact that he, in his human form, is distinctly separate from God.
John 6:38 – “I have come…not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me.”
John 8:28 –“…and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak as the Father taught me.”
John 8:50 – “I do not seek my own glory. There is one who seeks and judges.”
John 12:40 – “For I did not speak of my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me commandment, what to say and what to speak.”
John 14:24 – “He who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father who sent me.”
John 14:28 – “…because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
Mathew 12:32 & Luke 12:10 – “And whoever says a word against the son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven…”
Luke 18:18-19 – “…why do you call me good, only God is good.”
Matthew 20:23 – “To sit at my right hand is not mine to grant.”
Matthew 26:39 – “…not my will, but thy will be done.”
Mark 13:32 – “…of that day no one knows…not the Son, only the Father.”
John 6:44 – “…no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”
John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken of my own accord, but the Father who sent me, he told me what to say.”
Mark 14:36 – “…Father, all things are possible to you, take away this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”
Just by saying, “my will” and “the will of him who sent me,” Jesus leaves absolutely no doubt about the distinction between himself and the one who sent him. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
And who sent him? Why, “the Father,” of course. Jesus continually subjugates himself to “the Father.” It’s always him and “the Father.” Jesus readily admits he came from “the Father” and it is his job to do the will of “the Father”.
And what did Jesus think of our relationship with him and God?
John 34:10 – Jesus (quoting Psalms 82:6-7) answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are gods’.” 10
Jesus flat out points out something that the Jewish scholars and most Christian teachers have totally neglected to mention; we are all gods.
And finally, Jesus leaves no doubt about the relationship between man and God when in he states plainly, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’” 11
Jesus leaves no doubt that God lives, breathes and has its being as each and every one of us. Not just within us, but as us. He makes a distinct point by singling out “the least of these…” Jesus clearly states that even though you might feel unholy or unworthy or despicable, you are, in fact, God incarnated as you. Jesus leaves no doubt, we are gods, all of us. All of us.
Can you imagine if people actually treated everyone they met as if they were talking face to face with God? Do you think it might make you take pause before you condemn, criticize or complain? I know it does me.
I know some will come back with a slew of quotes like, “I am the way, the truth and the life” and many more. I guess it’s just a matter of where you want to cherry pick your quotes.
If you read the Bible long enough, you can find a quote to justify just about anything. So, am I cherry picking my verses? By all means! Just like everyone else. I think what verses you cherry pick says more about what’s in you rather than what the Bible actually says. Since this is my musings, these are my cherries to pick.
The point I want to make is Jesus’ relationship with God was no different than yours or mine.
Though he was obviously more consciously aware of his true connection with the Infinite than the majority of people, he still openly declared his subservience to the Divine power. He was adamant that we all have the ability to have the same connection with God as he had.
Another verse literalists will quote verbatim is John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This apparently claims God has no other sons than Jesus. We’ve already talked about how important the first born son was so the fact that Jesus was an only child makes him even more precious.
Though we could debate translations all day long I find two things interesting when reading the translation from the original Aramaic12, which was the language Jesus actually spoke;
“Because God loved the world so much so that he would give his unique beloved son so that everyone who trusts him may not perish but have life that is eternal.”
First is, while most English Bibles translate the Hebrew word, ‘Ee-hee-da-yah’, as “only begotten son” it actually refers to the first-born son, the “unique, beloved son”, not “the only begotten.”13
Second, the standard translation says “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,” while the Aramaic says, “that everyone who trusts him may not perish”. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a huge distinction. “…believeth in him” and “…trusts him14” are completely different things.
Personally I find it makes more sense that Jesus would want us to embrace his teachings and practice them rather than just believe he basically dove on the hand grenade for us. Otherwise, why teach at all? Why not just offer himself up and call it a day?
So rather than quibble such minutiae, I’ve compiled a list of quotes that go directly to the heart of the ‘son’ matter.
Matthew 5:44-45 – “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father…”
Duet 14:1 – “You are the sons of the Lord your God.”
Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
John 10:34 – After saying “I and the Father are one”, Jesus quotes Psalms; “..you are gods.”
Psalms 82:6-7 – “I have said “you are Gods and all of you are children of the Most High.’”
Exodus 4:22 – “…Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born.”
Isaiah 1:2 – “…I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
Apparently God had a soft spot for Solomon. Three specific times he claims him as his son.
2 Samuel 7:14 – “I will be his father and he shall be my son.”
1 Chron 17:13 – “I will be his father and he shall be my son.”
1 Chron 22:10 – “…he shall be my son, and I will be his father.”
These next verses show pretty clearly the earth is not the only place God has sons.
Genesis 6-2: “…that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
You might remember I mentioned these sons of God back in Genesis. Their children were giants, the mighty men of old.
In the book of Job, God and his friends were having a party up in heaven when Satan came up with his plan to mess with Job. Anyway, it’s plainly obvious that God had some of his sons up there too.
Job 1:6 – “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord…”
Job 38:7 – “…all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
Finally Jesus puts it to bed when he makes clear we are all one.:
John 17:11 – “…but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me that they may be one, even as we are one.”
John 17:22 – “The glory which you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one.”
Jesus leaves no doubt as to the relationship between man and God when he emphatically states, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 15
Whether taken literally or symbolically, it’s very clear God has lots of sons, or ‘children’ as it were. Literalists will point to the “only begotten” part of it which infers God impregnated Mary and that makes Jesus special. The interesting part is that the virgin Mary and son of God thing were hotly debated issues back in the early days of Christianity. 16
The fact is, the original disciples never thought of Jesus as God at all. It was only after the Roman emperor Constantine came along in the 3rd century, over 300 years after Jesus’ death, that Jesus’ divinity was made ‘official’ doctrine.
The Old Testament has a whole host of predictions that supposedly predict the coming of a new messiah. The guys in the New Testament like to point to these in order to prove Jesus was the messiah they’ve all been waiting for. Fulfilling prophecy, as it were. Why does that matter, you ask?
The Jews had been waiting for this new ‘anointed one’ for a long time. But to the Jews, this messiah would be a mortal, just like them, not some divine incarnation of God himself. While he would have no divine attributes, he would be blessed by God, just like all the other messiahs. But most importantly, he would be a great warrior, like David, and would restore Israel to its former glory.
Anointing has always been reserved for a High Priest, a king or some other who would lead the people of Israel to defeat their enemies. Aaron was anointed, Saul was anointed, David was anointed, Solomon was anointed, Cyrus was anointed.17 These were all mighty leaders, warriors who fought to bring Israel to glory.
Many people of the time thought Jesus would be this new messiah. He would lead Israel to its former glory and splendor. He had worked miracles so obviously he could take down those filthy Romans.
When they found out Jesus was all about love, mercy and forgiveness they turned on him and sent him off to be crucified.18
Somewhere along the way the Christian’s changed the Jewish word messiah to the Greek word ‘Christ’. Suddenly this mortal warrior morphed into the only begotten son of God who would be the savior of all mankind by giving himself up as the sacrificial lamb, etc. The definition of the Greek word ‘Christ’ is an invention of Paul and has nothing to do with the Jewish version of messiah.
It’s interesting to note the Jews never bought into any of this Christ stuff. To them, it was a total perversion of prophecy and heresy of the highest order. Even today among the Jews, Jesus is begrudgingly given prophet status at best.
None of Jesus’ original followers ever embraced the immortal Jesus, son of God, scenario either. They thought Jesus was a great prophet and teacher but never held him as an equal to God. They held to the power of his message about our own relationship with God.19
Prophecy is a big part of Christianity. According to the Bible, Jesus’ earliest followers were quoting scripture to prove his Christ-hood almost immediately after his death.20
For the sake of argument I’m going to come at this prophecy thing from a few different angles. Sometimes I’ll refer to what I call ‘Prophecy after the fact.’ This is when someone scoured the Old Testament and cherry picked any verse that even remotely supported the ‘Christ’ narrative.
Other times I’ll point out various linguistic variances in translations. Once you really start looking at how many translations the Bible has gone through it’s amazing it holds any of its original message.
More insidiously, I’ll show where verses were purposefully altered or changed completely. Sometimes it’s just embellishing who God is and what he really wants, but a disturbing number of times it’s blatant lies and fallacies.
Okay, let’s get started.
The first premise for this new messiah to be vetted is that he comes from the house of David. There’s a whole slew of supposed prophecies that predict this. One of the big ones is Isaiah 11:1 where Isaiah says, “And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse [David’s father], and a twig shall sprout from his roots.”
Personally I find this a little vague. At best, it sounds like he’s referring to one of David’s actual offspring. Solomon would be my guess. But who knows for sure? 21 Yet, to a lot of people, this one verse makes the messiah being from the ‘house of David’ a done deal.
To anchor this, the whole first part of Matthew recites a detailed genealogy from Abraham to David to Jesus, thereby establishing a direct blood line.
But there’s a hitch that nobody seems to mention. This genealogy is through Joseph, Jesus’ father. But if we accept the virgin birth then Joseph wasn’t involved in the coital process and his genes don’t matter. Joseph shared no actual chromosomes with Jesus. Essentially, according to this scenario, Joseph was Jesus’ step-father in which case his genealogy is of no consequence. To believers, this conundrum doesn’t seem to matter.
But if you follow the facts as presented in the Bible, the only human connection Jesus had was to Mary. David was from the tribe of Judah and Mary, through her lineage to Aaron, was a Levite. At the very least, if taken literally, this puts Jesus’ lineage to David in serious doubt.
Modern day Christianity rests on the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. They claim that particular detail was prophesied nearly 800 years before.
When I first read this prophecy I was amazed that anyone would assume it was a prediction of a virgin birth. The fact that the Jews never did says something. This is one of those areas where somebody went through the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with a fine toothed comb and distorted a verse to support their established argument; ie: Prophecy after the fact plus deliberate distortion.
When we look at the verse in context (Isaiah 7:14) we find it was never meant to be a prediction of some cosmic ‘Christ’. It was a very specific prophecy regarding a specific incident and a specific time frame.
The incident was that Jerusalem was under siege and the prospects were dire.
The prophecy was that a young woman, either with child or soon to be, would bear the child and by the time that child was weaned, the invading kings would abandon their siege and Jerusalem would be saved.
And that’s exactly what happened. God gave them the sign, the time frame and the result. And so it was. End of story.
But somewhere along the way, the followers of Jesus who held to his divine appointment found this verse and conveniently interpreted the Hebrew word ‘almah’, which literally means ‘young girl’22 to ‘virgin’. The problem is that, as originally written, this young girl could have been betrothed, a virgin at the time of the prophecy, soon to marry and have a baby the old fashioned way.
Although we’ll never know for sure, many scholars believe that this particular almah could have been Isaiah’s daughter or niece, maybe even his own wife. We can speculate who this almah was and debate the meaning of the word all day long and never get anywhere. The fact is, if you read the verse, it is talking about a specific incident, a specific time and a specific outcome. Nowhere is any reference to the future other than when the invaders would end their siege.
The fact that Jews dismiss the virgin birth as nonsense and none of the original disciples ever mentioned it, nor did the earliest Christians acknowledge it, is a pretty good indication that this is a cherry picked verse whose sole purpose is to support the narrative.23 I hate to say it, but the virgin birth just didn’t happen.
Another verse that talks about this new messiah is Matthew 21:5. In this verse Matthew quotes Zechariah’s prediction24 that the savior would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
If you’ve heard about Palm Sunday, this is what it’s all about. The week before being strung up, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was at the height of his popularity and, in their celebration, the people laid palm fronds on the ground so the donkey’s feet wouldn’t touch the ground.
Christians point to this as another fulfillment of prophecy.
The problem is, this prophecy could literally apply to anybody who’d ever ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. I’m guessing Jesus wasn’t the first. I’m also guessing he, like everybody else, knew about this prediction and used it to specifically make a point.
What does this prediction really mean? It means the messiah will be a regular guy who will ride into town humbly and without pretense. He will not arrive like a conquering king in a chariot and with much fanfare, but as a common man riding a donkey, just like the myriad of people who did so every day.
It’s a safe bet that many people already knew of this prophecy and were anxiously awaiting its fulfillment. They thought Jesus might be the one to set them free of Roman bondage.
So the bottom line is, maybe Jesus did fulfill this prophecy. Knowing its significance, I suspect he did it on purpose, just to show he was no different than anyone else25.
Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1) as saying “Out of Egypt did I call my son.” If you’ll recall, when describing Jesus’ birth, Matthew claims Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod and then brought Jesus back to Galilee after Herod’s death. You might also recall Luke’s version directly contradicts Matthew’s version.
If you read Hosea’s verse in context it’s clear Hosea is talking about the original exodus when Moses led the people out of Egypt. God often refers to Israel as his children or his son. This verse is not a prophecy at all. This is clearly a case of cherry picking a verse to support an established narrative.
One of the most important verses to support the ‘Jesus is Lord and Savior’ narrative is Psalms 22 where, in part, it says, “They have pierced my hands and feet…” Christians commonly use this verse to predict Jesus’ crucifixion.
This is where it can be a real advantage to read the whole Bible, in different versions, front to back. It’s important to know the language and the context.
The book of Psalms is really just a book of David’s songs and poems where he very much lays his heart on the line. His songs range from high jubilation to the depths of despair.
This particular set of verses is one of those songs. The first part even has instructions to the musicians.
You might remember when we talked about David, he went through a whole series of ups and downs. No sooner was he the conquering hero than he was running for his life. Saul was after him, the Philistines were after him, heck, even his own sons were after him. Psalms 22 is definitely written in one of these desperate times.
Christians point particularly to Psalms 22:16 where it says, in part, “…they pierced my hands and feet.” To Christians this is a direct prophecy of the crucifixion.
But there’s a funny thing about this verse that Christian Bibles conveniently leave out. You see, there are many interpretations of this verse26. One Hebrew translation says “…like a lion they have bound27 my hands and feet.” Christian Bibles neglect to acknowledge the “…like a lion” part at all. They purposefully omitted it. Why would they do that?
Like most lyricists, David uses his fair share of exaggeration, imagery and hyperbole. In this Psalm he laments about being scorned, hunted like an animal and given up to his enemies. The “...like a lion” part very likely refers to how large animals are transported after being killed.
Lions are much too heavy to just throw over your shoulder and carry home. But, if you tie their legs together at the feet (bind their hands and feet) you can run a long pole or spear through the legs and then you can heft it onto the shoulders of a couple of strong guys and carry it away. In a pinch, if you don’t have any rope, you can ‘pierce’ the flesh and run a pole between the tendon and bone and do the same thing.
Thus, the “... pierced my hands and feet like a lion,” conveys the image of being captured, killed, and carried away like a wild animal. It’s symbology that fits perfectly within the song and makes no reference in the least to being crucified. This is an obvious example of not only cherry picking a verse but actually omitting a phrase that doesn’t fit the narrative. Prophecy after the fact mixed with intentional deception.
Another pillar of the whole Jesus, son of God, savior narrative is the premise that God requires a sacrifice in order for him to forgive you. In a very real sense you have to buy your forgiveness. Blood sacrifice was common in ancient times and apparently the only way to appease an angry God was to kill something. God likes blood and plenty of it. Whether you kill a goat or God kills his own son, somebody has to die.
The funny thing is, the Bible is littered with examples where the prophets say just the opposite. It seems that even way back then, people with real knowledge could separate the spirit of the law with its literal interpretation.
I’m listing a slew of verses where sacrifice is not the objective but something else is, like love, mercy and justice.
I will let these verses speak for themselves. You’ll see when you get to the verses from Matthew, even Jesus himself extols the virtue of love and mercy over offerings and sacrifice.
Psalms 40:6 – David says, “Sacrifice and offering thou does not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear.”
Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering.”
1 Samuel 15:22 – “…to obey is better than sacrifice…”
Psalms 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise.”
Proverbs 15:8 –”The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
Isaiah 1:18-19 – “…says the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow…if you be willing and obedient…”
Proverbs 21:3 – “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
Micah 6:7-8 – “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams…for the sin of my soul? He has shown you…what is good, and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Psalms 50:14-15 – “Offer to God thanksgiving; and pay your vow to the Most High. And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Psalms 50:23 – “Whoever offers praise glorifies me, and to him…I will show salvation.”
Psalms 51:16-17 – “For thou does not delight in sacrifice…thou are not pleased with a burnt offering…The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit…”
Proverbs 15-8 – “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
Isaiah 66:3 – “He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like him who blesses an idol.”
Isaiah 1:11-13 – “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?…I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs…I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even your solemn meeting.”
Matthew 9:13 – “Go and learn the meaning of this, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’…”
Matthew 12:7 – “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
Mark 12:28-34 – “…the most important commandment…love the Lord…second…love your neighbor…”
Matthew 22:37-40 – “…you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It’s pretty obvious from these verses that God has never been terribly impressed by sacrifice. Over and over again he implores us to be good people who love each other, who help each other, who deal fairly with each other and who care more for mercy and justice than riches and impressive offerings.
And, if you’ll remember, God explicitly told Moses we were NOT to sacrifice our children.28 If he doesn’t want us to do it then he certainly wouldn’t require it of himself. And he would only be sacrificing to himself, so what’s the point?
On closer inspection, it’s apparent God is more willing to forgive than what we might have been led to believe.
So, if it’s not sacrifice that God wants, what is it?
First, let’s look at human nature. There’s a certain mindset that many people have that says they are not good enough, not worthy enough, not whatever enough. For whatever reason they feel guilty and are looking for a way to make amends. This feeling can gestate through any number of circumstances but, without getting into the whole psychology of guilt, suffice it to say, it is all too common in the human condition.
Since time immemorial those in power have been all too willing to exploit this mindset. They work hard to get their subjects to feel inferior and therefore in need of protection and leadership. It’s not the domain of any particular religion or philosophy. It’s the domain of those who wish to dominate and manipulate.
Just look at most advertising and political rhetoric. You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not rich enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not safe enough, you don’t drive the right car or wear the right clothes. But there’s always a product, a person, or a political party waiting in the wings to make everything alright.
In the case of religion there are those that take it to the ultimate extreme; you will go to hell and suffer eternal damnation unless you do what we say. Talk about a sales job. Not surprisingly, lots of people are just waiting to be told what to do so God will like them.
The Jesus, sacrificial lamb scenario fits that bill nicely. This scenario states you are separate from God, you are inherently evil, and the only way to make yourself right with God is to accept the blood of Jesus, and hold him as your Lord and savior. That’s a pretty hard sell.
But a surprising number of Biblical examples state just the opposite. Let’s take a look at a few from the Old Testament.:
In 2 Chronicles 30:18-19 the prophet says, “…the good Lord pardon every one, who sets his heart to seek God…though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.”
And Ezekiel, in chapter 33, verse 20 he says, “…I will judge you every one after his ways.”
Isaiah 63:9 says, ”…in all their affliction he did not afflict, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them…”
In the New Testament, Jesus states over and over again that we will be judged, justified and forgiven by our words, actions and faith, not by sacrifice.
Matthew 12:37 – “…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 3:10 – “…every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.”
Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore all things whatsoever you would have men do unto you: do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:15-24 – “…you will know them by their fruits…he who hears these words of mine and acts upon them can be compared to a wise man.”
Matthew 9:20-22 & Mark 5:34 – “…your faith has made you well.”
Acts 2:21 – “…and it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 10:34-35 – “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Even in Revelations 20:12 it says, “…and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.”
And finally, Jesus lays it out about as simply as he could in Matthew 22:37-40 when he says, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. The Bible literally says you are judged by your ‘fruits’; how you love and how you treat others, NOT through any sacrifice.
Jesus, more than anyone, knew God created us in his own image. His constant reference that the Kingdom of God is within proves God loves us like a benevolent father and wants only our well-being. Jesus knew man could never reconcile himself with God by buying his forgiveness with a couple of goats.
Man reconciles with God by living his life in the image and likeness of the God that created him. If we want to be close to God we must be kind, loving, faithful, humble and charitable, and live our lives with integrity.
Rather than the exception, Jesus was the ultimate example of how to live a life praised and embraced by God. He knew our innate potential when exclaimed to his followers when he said, “…and greater works than these shall ye do.” 29
There’s probably nothing more sacred in modern day Christianity than the resurrection.
For those of you who may not know about this, here it is in a nutshell.
Apparently it wasn’t good enough that Jesus gave himself up on the cross. To prove he was the real deal, he needed to be dead for three days and then rise from the dead.
There’s a verse from Hosea 6:1-230 that supposedly is a prophecy of this rising on the third day. But, if you read it in context, it’s quite a stretch to actually think this is a prophecy of things to come. Again, it looks more like somebody was combing the Old Testament for anything that would give their scenario credence. Again, prophecy after the fact.
But more importantly, the resurrection also means that, since Jesus rose, so will all the faithful ‘on the last day’. Paul goes on and on about this in his writings and, for a superstitious people who thought they were nothing but dust after they died, the possibility of coming back from the dead was super appealing.
But is it true?
Like so many of the stories in the Bible, the facts surrounding the crucifixion and subsequent rising change depending on who’s telling the story.
For instance, in Luke, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod31 but none of the other gospels even mention this.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, while Jesus is led to the slaughter, his cross is carried by someone named Simon of Cyrene. But in John the writer is adamant that Jesus “bears his own cross”.32 Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.
As far as the actual resurrection goes, there are four accounts and no two are alike. Everyone pretty much agrees that after Jesus was taken down from the cross he was laid in a tomb and a stone was rolled over the entrance. What happened next again depends on who’s telling the story.
In Matthew there is an earthquake and an angel. This is not an Old Testament angel who was just a messenger, this was a New Testament angel who descended from heaven and rolled back the stone and then sat on it. In this version there are three women present who witness it.
In Mark, there’s no angel but there are three women. When they got to the tomb they found the stone rolled aside and when they went inside they saw one young man sitting on the right side of the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there. Who is this young man?
In Luke, all the women in Jesus’ entourage went to the tomb. The Bible clearly states Jesus had many women followers who attended to his needs. So, if all the women went to the tomb, it would have been a lot more than three. They too found the tomb empty. But in this version two men appeared in dazzling apparel and stood by them. Who these men were is anybody’s guess. They’re called men, not angels, but the dazzling apparel might be a give away.
In John, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb by herself and found it empty. Then she ran to get Peter and another disciple. Who this other disciple is we’re not told. They all went back to an empty tomb to try to figure out what happened. Upon finding the tomb empty, the two disciples left Mary by herself. She looked inside and saw two angles seated where the body had been. The next thing you know, Jesus appeared to Mary just outside the tomb.
It is self-evident that these four versions of the resurrection don’t match at all. And, if you do a bit of research, you’ll find there are many more versions of the crucifixion and resurrection that don’t agree with any of these versions. But like so many of the books that weren’t included in the ‘official’ Bible, these versions were hunted down and destroyed so as not to confuse the people. For whatever reasons these four versions made the final cut.
It’s rare to find a serious Christian who ever questions these discrepancies. It’s kind of like Jesus’ birth where they just mix it all up into one story and call it good. To me, it’s another obvious example of a legend that got told and re-told so many times in so many circles that each version took on a life of its own. How much is fact and how much is fiction is anybody’s guess. There are those who take each word as absolute fact and those who write the whole thing off as mythical fantasy or even Roman satire.33
Finally, let’s not forget these versions were written anywhere from 60 to 300 years after the fact by people who had no first hand knowledge of the events, or knew anyone who did. Hearsay in its finest form.
By the way, most of these prophecies come from the book of Matthew. If you have a concordance version of the Bible it will footnote where they got each particular prophecy. Check it out for yourself.
The record is pretty clear that Jesus never thought of himself as the savior of all humanity, at least not in the sacrificial lamb way we usually think of him.
When we read his teachings he clearly had found a new way of looking at God and our relationship with him. He knew the innermost God and the outermost God are one and the same God. He knew God lives through his creation and wants nothing more than to bestow the fruits of the kingdom on all people, even “unto the least of these.”
Even more astonishingly, Jesus declared each and every one of us to be gods34. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand, right here, right now. This kingdom dwells within us, and to reap the benefits, all we need to do is recognize it.
Many people believe that Jesus sacrificing himself was what they call the “Good News”. Actually. The “Good News” Jesus preached was that we are all created of the one Father who loves us unconditionally and forgives us “seventy times seven.”35 He knew we were already ‘saved’, we are indeed gods in our own right, the Kingdom of God is at hand and it is the Father’s good pleasure to bestow all the gifts of the Kingdom on saints and sinners alike.
The question begs then, if Jesus wasn’t here to give himself up as a sacrificial lamb, what’s the point?
The answer is much simpler than we might suspect. If we think of Jesus as an extraordinary prophet and teacher, a man with a divine connection to the truth of his being, if we stick to what he actually taught, it becomes abundantly clear what he was up to, and why his message at the time was so revolutionary.
Jesus knew the kingdom of heaven was not something to be found by searching, it wasn’t something bestowed on you, and it couldn’t be earned or bought. It was within you and had been all along.36
He knew the truth and stated it simply. He implored his followers to listen to him and follow the wisdom of his teachings.37 He never quibbled about sacrifice or anything else. If you listened to what he taught and acted accordingly you would “be as a wise man.”
He knew the veil between what we call life and death is an illusion and shocked the world by saying his very words could bring eternal life.38
His message of love; that you love your brother, your sister, the foreigner and sojourner; that you love God; that love is all there is; that love is all that matters, was beyond anything anyone had ever heard.39
With all Jesus taught, he gave only one commandment in all of his teaching; “That you love one another even as I have loved you.”40
Jesus single handedly changed the nature of God from a vengeful “eye for an eye” God into a benevolent “Father” who wanted nothing more than that we be happy.41
To begin with, the Jewish priesthood at the time were very ‘law and order’ type guys. They were doing everything they could to keep the people in line with Jewish law while not offending their Roman occupiers.
On the one hand it was crucial to the priesthood staying in power to keep the Romans happy by discouraging any type of insurrection. On the other hand it was critical to their financial well-being to keep the people observing the laws of Moses. There was a lot of money to be made in the ‘Law’.
The priesthood at the time of Jesus controlled large swaths of land around Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. They grew barley and wheat which they sold at profit. They raised sheep and cattle, many of which were sold as “sacrificial lambs” to city people and those who didn’t have flocks of their own. God wanted his unblemished sheep and the priests sold these sacrificial animals for a tidy profit. They also controlled all the money that changed hands through these various sales at the temple. The priests were the oligarchy of the day.
While Jesus’s message that God loves you and will accept you regardless of whether you sacrifice or not was not only groundbreaking, it also threatened the priestly profit margin and that wasn’t going over well with the leadership.
At the same time, the people were looking for a messiah to rise up and lead them against their Roman oppressors. When they saw Jesus healing people and doing all kinds of miracles they were sure he had true prophetic powers. His charisma was undeniable and it looked like he was the ‘chosen one’ who would lead them to freedom.
It didn’t help that Jesus was saying things like, “…the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” 44 As Jesus implored the people to follow the spirit of the law, it was very important to the priestly coiffures that the people follow the letter of the law.
The priests saw Jesus as a rabble rouser who was leading the people astray while challenging their profit margin. His actions were also very likely to bring the weight of the Roman army down on their heads. They weren’t about to let that happen.
But just as he wasn’t into sacrifice, Jesus wasn’t interested in fighting it out with the Romans either. His simple message of love and “do unto others…” confounded his followers and detractors alike.
The priests didn’t know what to do with him but they weren’t about to take any chances. So they did what people in power have done for millennia; they’d find a way to get rid of him.
So they arrested him and took him to Pilate, the governor of the area, figuring he would just execute him like did all the other common criminals. But it turned out the Romans weren’t impressed. Pilate wanted to release him.
But the priests kept pushing it and wouldn’t let it go until Pilate finally relented. According to the Bible, it was Pilate’s custom during the Passover holiday to release one prisoner of the people’s choosing.45 Pilate offered up Jesus and Barabas, a notorious rebel terrorist. He figured it would be a slam-dunk that the people would choose Jesus. After all, he’d just ridden into town the week before to a crazy celebration.
But people are fickle. They wanted Barabas. Barabas was a fighter and Jesus had shown himself to be just the opposite. The people wanted a fighter, they wanted Barabas. That sealed Jesus’ fate.
So they took him out, tortured him for fun and summarily nailed him to a tree. That’s right, the literal interpretation is ‘a tree’. Somewhere along the line the tree became a cross. Maybe a tree was a euphemism for a cross or maybe they hung him up on an actual tree. I’ve seen it both ways. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. By the end of the day he was dead. Only, as the story goes, to rise three days later and save us all.
Regardless of how much of this you believe, it’s self-evident that Jesus’ life and death have had a profound effect on civilization, especially Western civilization.46
But what did he really teach? Let’s take a look.
1 Basically God sacrificed his first born son which, if you’ll remember, he specifically nixed back in Moses’ time.
2 And apparently still is.
4 It’s not like they had GPS.
6 Or they just made it up to fulfill a supposed prophecy
7 Without the help of a star
9 Luke 2:41-52
10 Psalms 82:6-7
11 Matthew 25:40
12 The language Jesus actually spoke
13 Science of Mind Magazine, Oct 2020, The Language of Jesus, Rocco Errico
14 “…believes him.”
15 Matthew 25:40
16 The pro-virgin birthers prevailed at the Council of Nicaea
17 Isaiah 45:1
18 And chose Barabas, a notorious revolutionary, instead
19 The true ‘Good News’
20 The Day of Pentecost…see the section on Christianity for details.
21 If you read the whole chapter it talks about a righteous new leader rising up.
23 Most likely at the Council of Nicea
24 Zachariah 9:9
25 After all, he arranged the whole show. Mark 11:1-11
27 The same word can be interpreted as ‘pierced’ or ‘dug at’……refer to footnote above
28 Exodus 13: 12-15, Numbers 18:15-16
29 John 14:12
30 Google it
31 Lk 23:6
32 John 19:18
33 Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus by Joseph Atwill
34 Actually he re-declared it
35 Matthew 18: 21-22
36 Luke 17:20-21
37 Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:47-49:
38 John 5:24; John 8:51; John 12:49-50
39 John 13:34; Matthew 22:37-40
40 John 15:12
41 It can be disheartening to see people who proclaim the ‘Good New’ while clinging to the Old Testament.
42 Matthew 23:23-24; Luke 20:46-47
43 John 2:12-22
44 Mark 2:27
45 A custom mentioned nowhere else, anywhere, ever
46 And by extension, most of the world.