A series by Michael Mifsud.
During the early part of Jesus´s life, there were low attendances at the teaching synagogues very much as we find in Christian Churches today, and the Temple was a massive slaughterhouse of the same type of Halal tradition the Muslim world has today. It was based entirely on economics and the power of the priestly state. The Pilgrimage to Mecca and the wholesale slaughtering of lambs is a modern day version of what Jerusalem was like during festive seasons. Jesus considered the whole scenario an abomination devoid of humanity and understood its implications with respect to the vaunted cruelty to animals which had been abolished as early back as the treaty between Abraham and the priests of Melchizadech. Jesus utilised the symbolism of animal sacrifice in atonement to his God to create the concept of the ultimate self sacrifice not only for the restoration of the spirit of unity in purpose, but to do away with the primaeval concept of the slaughter of innocent animals in the name of religion. An animal activist and a vegetarian today would feel something akin to this albeit perhaps not in such a dramatic way. The very first inkling of social sensitivity to these practices appears in the old testament writings where the patriarch Abraham is made aware of the need to reduce these offerings to no more than bread and wine. If there had not been an issue of rejection of past practices involved, the introduction of these new teachings would not make sense. The earlier step of course had been human sacrifice when the first born, especially of the Nazzarene sect or its equivalent, had to be physically sacrificed.
A Grecian mind in an Asiatic cultural upringing.
Jesus, a stoic and Asian ascetic, would have had vegetarian and animal suffering concern in his makeup. His sensitivity to people and nature would have, by the time he entered his third decade of rigourus self discipline, been acute enough to find a great deal of what he saw and felt repugnant and alienating. He was looking at a future arcadia of social contentment in much the same way as later generations of ideologists were to write and think about. Roman occupation of his native Galilee and surrounding territory and the Greek cultural influence went a long way to show him where the future lay. He no doubt spent hours contemplating the contrasts between the Eastern cultural attitudes and the Western achievements in the sciences and standards of living. He was, however, still in a period of vast differences in both Roman and Greek societies between those who had a great deal and those who scraped around for a living. His privileged position as a well educated and distinctly accentuated man of aristocratic bearing could earn him a following when he preached about moral values, but it alienated those who saw in John the Baptist, something more approachable and more likely to understand their real family problems. Jesus offered his intense love for nature and his fellow citizens through a personality that although transparent was full of the riddles of the Greek teaching methods that he employed. If we are to even remotely consider what he meant when he chastised the follower who wanted to go home and bury his father by suggesting that the "dead should bury the dead", it must have made for some frowns among those who had brought themselves to follow him. They felt that special something that drew him to them but they were not prepared to go into areas of conflict with someone they could not yet understand. They betrayed their confusion profusely, much to Jesus´s consternation. His admonishment to Thomas with respect to the reality of his wounds, shows him at the height of his exasperation. There is no love there – simply a matter of getting on with things and a call for faith. One can well try and put oneself in poor Thomas´s shoes. By that time, none of the disciples knew quite what had hit them. They had ejoyed a leading force till then and suddenly he had been beaten up, nailed to a cross and presumably died a painful death. The cries of miracle and astonishment that the Magdalene brought threw them into confusion and fear. Just what happened at the so called descent of the Paraclete or induced euphoria, may well have been planned too. It is strange that there is no disciple at the entombment when John and James at least would have been hysterical with grief and would have not allowed anyone to keep them away from his body. Yet it is only Nicodemus which scrambled is close to "Medecinus" and Joseph who attend to his body. The tradition of the three Mary´s appear to be later inclusions and if indeed they had been there, the whole process of rest and application of the healing aloes, would have been badly and dangerously disrupted. The story of the Magdalene who goes to visit the closed grave would also have been a little less credible if she in fact had felt his body in the in the grips of death. To all intents and purposes, his body would have been quite hot and although breathing may have appeared to be have stopped, the marks on the shroud of Turin make sense of their was a a gentle heating process which could produce both vapor ascent and direct contact sealing of pigment which would be baked in with the rays of the sun when the precious linen had been washed by the loving women, fearful of infection. There is no other way that the image of the shroud could been produced in its known makeup.
The ultimate authority of this – a woman scientist actually endorses this. There is absolutely no shadow of doubt in my mind that not only is this the shroud that covered the body of someone who died like Jesus, if it was not him that it refers to, but that it was designed with the mysterious attached edge segment that would have helped to tie round Jesus´s waist (and probably at his own instigation if he perhaps tried it on) once he was fully conscious and in a position to get up and dress up with it in the manner of a toga. Surprising enough, the story of Lazarus and the wailing desperate women together with the call to some sort of chamber from outside would fit in very well with what actually happened on the day of resurrection. There is a call by Jesus to what appears to someone dead and interred within a mausoleum for at least a day or two since they had all given up on the idea that Jesus could have saved him. They were angry at his nonchalance and delayed return. The situation would have been identical in an attempt to discover whether the occupant was awake and ready to come out. In the case of Jesus, the Essenes, trained in the process, would have done the same thing after frightening the guards off or lured them away. This implies that the dying and ressurection medium was an initiation of a very high order and that Lazarus was also a very important element in this death defying cult. All Baptisms in terms of complete immersion are symbolical of this and so are most of the hidden secret rituals of the cults that were to become predominant throughout the centuries. The life death experience was a rebirth which carried the attribution of a new dimension and greater spiritual capabilities. It seemed to work within the Masons and the Roman cult of Mithras. It was also associated with that of Demeter which, as I have mentioned previous is copied faithfully in the bible story of the passion in terms of red cloak, ritual paraphernalia like the reed and the final touch of the identical thorny crown. So what was going on that the Romans were not involved in ?
The Madgalene was appalled at the filth of his robes and thought it could have only been a gardener covered in dirt. Jesus was well prepared to stop her from embracing him for obvious reasons. The fear of transmission of new infection is understandable and when he said, "I am not yet ready". The "Do not touch me" situation could not have been more poignant and perhaps she caught them by surprise but he had to tell her who he was – it was an important part of the plan. He knew what she would cause and had to get out of there fast. She was not very happy about these robed people taking him away and it is the simplicity and transparency of incidences like this that put the story into a very strong, truthful light. It is therefore not suprising that these incidences are the most expressed and highlighted in the religion that followed. These are the key factors in the magnificent and extraordinary but very human story that wold blend together millions of fascinated believers throughout the world. The men on robes who took him away – two and very necessary, as far as Professor Schoenburg is concerned (and I support him throughout), were from Qumran or an intermediary point nearby for further camouflage. The odd encounters needed to heighten the speculation and to draw the Authorities into conflict, were well organised and always with a chance to escape. Jesus was a master at disappearing tricks and there is every reason to believe that he knew about these things – things that he would have learned in contact with the shamans of Asia. But the great challenge was still ahead and Paul (Saul as he then was – I believe I know why this was changed) would have been alerted very shortly after the event and perhaps even asked to ride past the point where he saw and heard Jesus address him in that singular manner. "Saul, Saul why do you persecute ME" . Paul would have recognized him after all this time especially if during his student period with him, he had told him of the future encounter or utilized a code word that told him who his father was. Paul was a Benjamite and a Messiah of Israel was all he wanted. He fought against and discredited any from the Judean fold as he had been wont to do and for which he had always been feared by the peoples of the whole area. Yet he was an Israeli and even if not a Jew, would have been loathe to hurt his own people, unless of course, he was only prepared to accept an issue from a specific line. It is quite incredible that none of this has been studied objectively despite the fact that it makes little sense outside common logic. I believe that he knew Jesus father and it was from that direction only that he was prepared to look for the coming Messiah. If we are told that he fell fom his horse (and he might have done in a moment like this), there is very little reason for doubting it since it could have been told in many other more colourful ways. If we are told he was unconscious and he might well have struck his head, it is credible. But only a loving friend who attended him and whom he realised was everything he had been looking for, could have harnessed his energies in the way that it did. Paul however, did it his own way and opened the gates to all and sundry into his new religion which may have upset the staunch and disciplined men of Qumran. The Essene movement, after all, was a foundation laid initially by the Hasmodean rulers and they were Templars par excellence with rigid rules that did not allow for gentiles. Paul was a reformer and a clever one at that. He saw the base of real power within a society that he abhorred and which he knew was heading towards its own end. The rule of the biblical Kittim was slowly betraying the signs of decadence and for Paul the rising of the Phoenix of Israel had to do with the concept of a united Israel and an educated one in a modern context. The age of the power of the word as a major exponent of this, was about to start. Jesus, from his future wanderings, well away from Jerusalem, could well have kept contact and even made further contributions to what was to follow. Paul was on his own with Peter apparently involved in the structure rather than form.
The strange woman in his life
Jesus was always surrounded by his immediate disciples among which was a woman they all knew he slept with but were not sure was his wife. Few knew the real story of her relationship because they had not seen her walk around with him before. She was a problem they had not had to face before. She was besotted with his needs and it was beginning to look as if he was weak on personal comforts - something which many of his followers with severe family problems including, vagabonds who were there for the odd meal, could find disturbing. Women were not of that sort of order in those days and the men of the period probably just allowed it in this instance because they felt that Jesus loved them as much, even though in a different way perhaps. They were puzzled by the persistant presence and perhaps interfering nature of the Magdalene (whose name was probably Maryam ) and despite her apparent loose living past, was not haughty with them or the other women in Jesus's life. She came it seems from a wealthy and influential family and had, it would appear, married Jesus early in his twenties. The idea was to connect two important ancient lines linked with the Patriarch Abraham and conspire to achieve a Messianic acclaim that would bring the Israelite crown back. The Qumran authorities who had sheltered Jesus´s father had probably planned it all well before Jesus reached his manhood. After a brief and fulfilled marital period during which he had sired two children in the disciplined way of the Essene community, Jesus had not seen Maryam for over a decade. She had participated in the education and rearing of her children in their early infancy but had chosen to return to her wealthy and influential family and the loose living association with those circles. The children lost contact with their mother and Jesus saw them irregularly but often enough to endorse the love and respect they felt for him to the end. Mary, his mother also took them in when they were of age and were brought up with his own brothers and sisters as part of the brood. The reaction to the Magdalene by his senior followers, was due to the fact that they did not know (or needed to know) who she really was and neither did her two children who formed part of the group on most occasions. Today, such situations are difficult to understand but life in an Essene community stripped married life to its basics. The woman slept with their menfolk in between periods of abstinence and the children were brought up in the austere but healthy way of life that created the "followers of the way" – the path to the future promised land.
In fact Jesus found a hint of jealousy among his immediate followers which he thought very amusing. As his very real wife with whom he had had no contact for a very long time, he was enjoying this public relationship having extracted her from the mess she had got herself in. He had been alerted and had hastened to the scene when the public announcement had been made. Only he knew who she was by name and she had not dared to say it out openly when she say him. It had been a second and definite love relationship brought on by the circumstances and she was making sure that he would lead her to her children in his own time.
The unlikely Messiah.
Jesus arealized that the ascetic image of his cousin John who had been executed fairly recently, was perhaps something that they looked for in spiritual leaders. He also knew however, that his followers found a source of strength in him drawn from their admiration of his intelligence. Jesus was a trained leader who had attended the most prestigious university of the time in Tarsus and from that point of view his self confidence was one of his major assets. Some spread the rumours in moments of doubt that they they sensed he had something up his sleeve, which he would reveal when the time came. It was this air of expectancy that had them all waiting for the " Good News" Jesus himself was quick to point this out when he felt that confusion could break the important links between them. He had tried so hard to make them understand that he was, for the time being, the only target in the community and that all he wanted was affection and obedience. He knew that most would never understand what he wanted of them, but he also knew that he was the constant image in the eyes of at least two of them who would, without doubt, lead the way when he was gone. Martyrdom was not his objective. It was too commonplace and obvious to cause the waves he wanted to sweep across the cultural remnants of the ancient tribes. He also knew that there was nothing that he could offer Judeans that did not smack of power or advantage. He was nobody's magician and he hated using his ability in this respect for the sort of cheap popularity it provided. Many had gone that way and disappeared in the past like Simon the Mage. In fact, he had often been asked to better him at his baffling tricks which attracted more than the usual crowd. Jesus was no politician, he was too sensitive to pander to that sort of popularity either, but he knew that there was no way that he could rely on his unusual and charismatic personality for incidental support. He wanted allegiance. He demanded allegiance and was quite prepared to blow his top when they wavered and asked those childish questions that carried weakness. Judeans wanted trickery and magic. They loved it as a cultural heritage. Moses was surrounded by all this like everything else that came from Egypt and Chaldea and although David was associated with prowess, they did not realize that magic was one of the things he had no heart for and which according to their legends caused him to drop the Ark and run whenever it started to do anything of the sort. David, after all, was a warrior – a tough one but his leadership qualities were neither proven or ever seen. His own son Solomon was back to the heathen ways of the Egyptian, traditional priesthood with built in Idol worship. Whether this had been inculcated by his father David, is difficult to tell, but they both married Ethiopian women and they both put them into harems to be seduced and perhaps bear children by foreign potentates. There is therefore no credence in the line of descent other than through the wives. This is a factor that Muslims abhor in their refusal to accept the children of Sarai and yet accept the one – Ishmael – from his servant – Haggai. But then Jesus was not interested in David other than as the legendary figure of the Judean culture. His interest was in the tribal commonwealth which had once ruled the whole of Assyria and influenced Egypt during the period of the mysterious Hyksos occupation. Much was hidden under those stories of power and exile but he was not a David or a scion ofhim and as he said quite openly "Is David not also a servant of God ?" What he meant was that it was not his intention to emulate him and that his leadership bore no semblance to what would be expected of a figure like that or of Joshua the magician, seen as breaking down walls with magical vibrations. He wanted faith in his ability to bring about a silent revolution and to that extent he had to rely on his own charisma and inflexible sense of purpose. Saul of Tarsus had shared many a happy moment with him but then that was a very long time ago and the moment was not ripe to show him who he was. They had studied together as previously mentioned, at the famous institution in Tarsus where he had been primed to express its stoic ways. He was also of the same age. Jesus was however rather disappointed that he had not maintained communication with his family members knowing that he shared a dream with him which now seemed so lost in the past. But there were other more important things ahead which had to be done before he treaded into his shadow again. Saul would know who he was soon enough, after all, there were family links in Britain through Linus (a future bishop of the new church) whom they had both visited during one of those journeys to the island with Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus suspected that he knew his father but he had been warned not to discuss this with anyone – not even members of his own family. It is little wonder that all that Jesus ever thought about in everything he did, was the father that he had loved in such a sporadic and psychologically damaging way. He was forever tormented by his loss and the controlled periods with him that did not allow for the sort of things any child who adored his father would have like to do all the time. In many ways, it was a weakening factor that almost put paid to the process of death and ressurection that he had promised himself he would undertake in his honour. Whether his father would have allowed him to think along those lines is another matter. The whole affair may well have not been organised at all and purely a matter of his own day to day encounters and conflicts and a determination to lead himself to a crucifixion.
Qumran was a throughly patriarchal community and women including mothers were relegated to the role of auxiliaries whose emotional weaknesses they were not allowed to indulge in. His marriage, if it could be called that, was like everything else - a matter of duty and his wife to all intents and purposes loaned for the occasions that they could be together. All his life was conditioned by method and discipline and in reality his very nature rebelled against all of it. He had started to travel extensively before he had been chosen for the main role in the Qumran community – as teacher of Righteousness, but unknowingly it carried the price of the results of his open mission. There was no turning back then but his whole life, teachings and community upbringing had more than prepared him for it. Once an Essene – always an Essene and he lost no chances in spreading the word whenever and wherever he might be. Although he never lost real touch with his children, uncle and mother, Maryam was not cut out for community life and her wealthy and influential family absorbed her time and interests. The children brought up in the community life were almost exclusively with their grandmother and they had not seen Maryam since the first three years of their existence. It was not always like this, but Maryam had little time for rules or spartan existence and her family were not that happy about her relationship with either the children or Jesus. It had been a matter of dynastic claims and there was scarce interest in the issue whilst Jesus was alive.
All or nothing as the end drew near.
The contemporary religious scenery is vividly illustrated in the different texts of the New Testament showing angles that do not appear to have been given much attention by those seeking the reality of the Jesus phenomenon. What Jesus did by offering himself in this indirect way, was to isolate the House of Judah forever by provoking its leaders to execute him as a heretic in revolutionary disguise. It was not his interpretation of the tribal laws however that did it but the survival instincts of the ruling priesthood which saw its days numbered if this unusually intellectual Jesus swayed the crowds against them. Rome did not want to know – Herod did not want to know. That, became quite clear. Both saw their bases untouched by his growing popularity. In fact, they welcomed it in their joint dislike of the hypocritical Temple Authorities who spoke to them in one vein and addressed their religious followers in another. They did however know that without them, Rome would have been unable to hold its position with any form of authority or perhaps elegance. The charismatic Jesus was a big fish in a small pond but he was not all that suited to lead the whole of the occupied territories or the intransigent variety of populations that could now be loosely considered remnants of the ancient tribes of Israel. This concept meant little to them and they certainly did not, for an instance, imagine that it encompassed the very citizens of Rome. For Rome, therefore, there was no threat but they overlooked more than one important point with respect to the effect that Jesus was having on a wide variety of thinking people. His majestic stance albeit almost rugged in its solid presence was admired but as a political threat to the Roman military, he was no obvious agitator. In fact they were delighted to see him attack the troublesome priests with such vehemence. Jesus appeared to identify with the Sadducee who were less inclined to take the law literally and were tolerant to the point of cultural identification with the ruling Roman occupiers. They provided funds and often convened at the Temple on issues affecting its wellbeing. For Jesus, there was no challenge there. This patrician hierarchy included his own uncle who by family tradition was open to involvement in these proceedings as a member of the international community. Joseph had little time for such matters, although he kept the links open if only to establish the sort of influence that could be useful to his own family aspirations. His own relationship with Jesus was seen as parenthood and this gave Jesus a protection that earned him the jealousy of those who were out to smear him. No one suspected however that he might have been the issue of another – much more important man whom the Romans had threatened to eliminate from the face of the earth and who died just before Jesus entered his teens.
A shroud that would immortalize a face.
There was nothing suave about Jesus and as Josephus was later to comment on – he had a strong, almost mesmerizing effect on people and his chiselled features with a prominent nose and oval wide face were almost godlike in the Roman tradition of the Divinities. If the shroud of Turin is indeed the covering placed on him after the crucifixion, it shows that his face fell back after the cheek bones as otherwise the flatness would have shown a wider image. The gap between the cheek bones and the hair markings loses an important area of his features which the cloth did not touch as it was stiffened by the aloes and the heat. If it had been stuck on the face in the form of a mold, it would, on opening, have exaggerated the wideness of the face to the point of distortion. As such the ridge of his nose followed the outer cheek bones as the material hung lightly against them to miss the side of the face and fall on the matted hair which stood out like brushwood ingrained with blood and dust. The cheek bones would have been pronounced and his nose may have been flattened enough (perhaps broken) to produce the image, but the rest would have fallen away slightly against a stiffened shroud caked with aloe, to create the mistaken impression that it was angular and narrow. The hair would have been pushed upwards and also caused a mistaken impression.
Jesus had dramatic features, but there was another aspect which added to his charisma - his unexpected, uncontrived gentleness. He was a son of the intense love of his real father whom he had lost as just said, at a very young age and whom he saw only very infrequently. These meetings however, had been treasured and filled him with a pride and love that hurt him during those long periods of absence. He found his unrequited love in the people who needed him as children of this type of situation often turn out. His mother often deteriorated after each meeting and he knew that she needed him by her side perhaps more than he could offer. Joseph spent a great deal of time with them but then he too, often went off for periods at a time and his mother sought the company of the other women in the family. Elizabeth her cousin however, had been a constant source of support during difficult years, but with John growing up the way he did it, it often got into the family way of things causing disquiet especially to his mother who came to commiserate with his own mother and cousin Mary. John started to disappear in desert and mountain villages or so he was told, but then Jesus himself became no stranger to those distant travels and his uncle would sweep him away, taking his mother with them sometimes. Anne his grandmother had survived her husband and had been very old when he first made a trip to the shores of ancient Britain and what we now know as Cornwall. He enjoyed all this but his heart was in Asia which had triggered off this passion by the regular visits of the people from the Indian continent that his father had introduced him to. They were very exotic and spoke to him with the sort of respect that made him realize that they expected things from him. Setting out on those long voyages, long after his father´s death, made him very sad and his mother just refused to understand that he needed to know so much to be able to do the memory of his father any real justice. She seemed to sink deeper and deeper into melancholy and even her brother often had to speak sharply to her to enable her to understand that she had to make a choice with respect to her future in those final years. She was not a loner and the early marriage of Jesus had a lot to do with her in this respect, but he had shown very little interest in a proper family relationship often stating that it was not what he was destined to do. She wanted his children to fill up that emptiness in her heart that his father´s death had caused and she saw in her own brother the added threat that he would one day take Jesus away permanently. The children of her other children made up for this loss of support from the leading members of her family, but she had a very special affection for Jesus that she saw unreturned. Mary went to Britain to join her own mother instead, for most of his late teens and studies at Tarsus. She brought her other three children with her – one of whom remained behind to build a new family. She had little she wanted in Galilee and her cousin Elizabeth had died. John´s whereabouts were unknown and apart from his odd travels with Jesus to Cornwall and Southern Spain among other places, in his infancy, and the time spent in Qumran being shaped in their family priestly tradition, the relationship came to an end early in his teens. The family had learnt about his hermetic existence and his growing popularity in the East after his first real return to his homeland when Jesus was already well into his thirties. John would have never recognized him. Life in the Middle East with its uncertainties was a question of survival and whole families often split up with little chance of reunions if distances and wealth did not permit. Long lost prodigals often turned up long after they were considered dead. The situations, however saddening, did not affect the Middle Eastern minds steeped in religious beliefs and faith in the will of God. It has not changed much even to these days. Even women condemned to death for so called adultery in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia leave it all to the will of God. It is as deep as it always was and it helped considerably in the facing of the challenges that such a fairly primitive existence brought in daily.