And Yet, I Pray

Everything we know, or think we know, about God is subjective, which means that it depends on an individual's subjective experiences that are private mental events limited to that one individual who experiences them. We have no objective informaion about God. Objective information refers to objects and events in the world that anyone can, in principle, observe.

God has not been observed objectively. The reason that we have differing religions in the world is because all religons are based on subjective  information, which refers to feelings and experiences that depend on an individual's own particular viewpoint and traits.

The content of the Bible was written by people based on their individual, subjective experiences that were private mental events limited to each individual who experienced them. For example, Moses said he spoke to God and God spoke to him. No one observed this but him. Whatever information we get from Moses about God is subjective. We have no objective information about God from Moses, nor do we have any objective information about God from any of the writers of the Bible. Even if one believes that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God, the belief that it was inspired by God is subjective. Everything said, done or seen by anyone that cannot be observed by everyone is subjective.

The holy books of all religions are subjective, whether it is the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, the Quran, the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita or any other holy books. Thus, belief in any deity or deities is subjective since no deity can be observed by anyone. If any deity could be observed by anyone, then I should be able to observe God, YHWH, Allah, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma or any other deity. It should be possible for me or anyone else. However, it is not.

All religion is subjective. All religion is without objective proof.

And yet, I pray. I pray to the God of my own subjective understanding. Why? Because, as Alexander Pope wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

The Real Story of Jesus of Nazareth

The posts that follow are in descending order so that you can read them from beginning to end. This allows for better understanding of what I teach and why my teaching is what I believe to be true. It starts with a series of posts about what I believe to be the true story of Jesus, starting with his mother, Mary, and moving forward from there. Some of my sources of scholarly, historical and archaeological information can be found by clicking the link, Reliable Sources, on the top menu.

Some say there is a difference between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. For me, there is no difference. I belief that faith has to have a basis in fact. Otherwise, there is no difference between faith and traditions fabricated a long time after the actual events occurred by the church to suit it's purposes, sometimes to preserve it in the face of Roman oppression and sometimes to establish better control over it's members.

I believe in the Jesus of history, a Jewish human being of Davidic ancestry who was crucified and died a horrible death with hideous suffering at the hands of the Romans with the approval of a small group of aristocratic Jews who wanted to maintain good relations with the Romans so as to sustain their wealthy and influential lifestyle. This was apart from the majority of Jews who supported Jesus and cheered him on in his mission. The Romans crucified Jesus at the command of the brutal, Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate for claiming to be King of the Jews and to prevent him from causing an insurrection against the Romans by the majority of the Jews in Jerusalem during Passover week of A.D. 30.

Jesus taught people about the one and only God, YHVH, the Kingdom of God and repentance of their sins so that they could be right with God and be a valid part of God's Kingdom that was to come here on Earth. He summed up the Commandments as love of God and love of neighbor. As part of that, Jesus was egalitarian. He advocated equality among people.

There is all this and more. If you care about the real Jesus and the real truth, read on. 

Mary, The Mother of Jesus

Tradition has it that around the year B.C. 18, a female child was born to an older Jewish couple named Joachim and Anna in the ancient Roman city of Sepphoris, which was located on a hill, four miles slightly northwest of Nazareth.  She was their firstborn daughter, and they named her, Mary.

Mary grew up in Sepphoris, but sometime before B.C. 4, her family moved to Nazareth.  There, when Mary was 14 or 15 years of age, she was pledged in marriage to an older man named Joseph who was a builder, working in stone and wood.

Just prior to her being pledged in marriage, or shortly after, Mary was made pregnant by another man.  It was said that this man was close to Mary in age and a Roman soldier.  His name was Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera.

The names Tiberius Julius were acquired names.  Abdes Pantera was his given name.  The name Abdes is a Latin form of an Aramaic name, Ebed. Thus, he was semitic, not a native born Roman. Scholarly research has found that he was from Sidon, less than 40 miles from Sepphoris.  Bearing the given name of Ebed Pantera, he may have been Jewish.

Ebed was transferred to Germany, along with his cohort of archers, in A.D. 6 from Palestine. He died there at age 62 after 40 years of service as a Roman soldier.  His tombstone was found in a Roman cemetery at Bingerbrück in 1859. Today, the tombstone can be found in a museum called the Römerhalle, located in the town of Bad Kreuznach.

Whether or not Ebed knew he had made Mary pregnant is unknown. Also unknown is whether Ebed forced himself on Mary or if she consented because they were in a voluntary relationship.

Whatever the case, Joseph found out that the woman to whom he was pledged in marriage was pregnant; and it wasn’t by him.  He may have wanted to back out of the marriage, but he eventually decided to go through with it, but only after the child was born.

To get a break from the scandal of being pregnant before her wedding, Mary left Nazareth for the little village of Ein Kerem to spend three months with a relative of hers, Elizabeth, and with Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah. Elizabeth may have been Mary’s cousin or aunt; we can’t be sure.  We do, however, know that Elizabeth was carrying a boy as was Mary.  These two boys would grow up and, eventually, come to be known as Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptizer.

Was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, a Perpetual Virgin?

Mary wasn't a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus and after she had Jesus, she went on to have other children. And there is nothing wrong about that. Mary was a married Jewish woman of her time and in her Jewish culture.

Jesus had four half-brothers and two half-sisters, James, Joses, Simon, Judas, Salome and Mary. They most likely were not from Joseph because he disappears from the Bible narrative after the birth stories about Jesus. Being substantially older than Mary, Joseph might very well have died of old age, or he might have died from some other cause. Jesus was most likely in his teen-age years when Joseph died.

If Joseph did die childless, according to Jewish law in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, the oldest surviving unmarried brother had to marry his deceased brother's widow and father a child in his deceased brother's name so as not to allow the deceased brother's lineage to come to an end. Joseph's brother was Clophas. So, Mary most probably had some or all of her children by him with the exception of Jesus.

Clophas, having been not all that much younger than his brother Joseph, probably died when Jesus was in his twenties. Jesus became the head of the family and caretaker to his mother and younger brothers and sisters.

The family was poor, having no land or wealth. Jesus, following in Joseph's footsteps, would have supported the family as best he could by doing building with mostly stone and some wood. According to a 2nd century A.D. Roman writer, Celsus, there was a tradition that Mary did spinning to earn money.

When Jesus was about thirty years old, he began his public ministry. His mother and siblings were among his followers. Some of his other followers were wealthy women, among them Mary Magdalene, who provided support for Jesus and his family.

Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist

In the Spring or Summer of A.D. 26, John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah from the little village of Ein Kerem, knowing Isaiah 40:3, "Prepare the way of Yahweh in the desert," came to believe that he was the person to whom God was speaking in that verse. Thus, at age 30, he retreated to the area by the Dead Sea in the Jordan River Valley. There he preached that people should repent of their sins and be purified by immersion in water.

The Jewish historian, named Josephus, wrote that John told the people to live righteous lives and do justice toward their fellow men; and give devotion to God. This was in anticipation of God's apocalyptic judgment, which was thought by John to be coming soon. Josephus says that crowds were joyous at hearing John's words. Massive crowds came to see him, seeking his guidance and willing to do anything he said.

When fall arrived, John moved to Aenon near the settlement of Salim at a crossroad of the route that all the people from Galilee would use to travel to Judea for the fall holy days celebrated by the Jews. There, Jesus came to be baptized by John. This was how Jesus chose to begin his public life by partnering with his relative, John, in the repentance and baptism purification ministry, both believing they were called through the voice of Yahweh to prophetic roles.

Jesus and John: Reality Clouded by Christian Theology

Christian theology has tried to diminish John the Baptist and elevate Jesus. So, in Luke 7:28, when Jesus says of John the Baptist, "I tell you among those born of women [as Jesus was] none is better than John," as Luke finds in the Q source, the source that Luke used along with the Gospel of Mark to write his own Gospel, he or a later scribe finds it necessary to insert, "Yet the least in the kingdom is greater than he," referring to John. For Christian theology, it was unacceptable for Jesus to be saying that someone else was better than him.

In reality, Jesus thought highly of John the Baptist and learned from him. In Luke 3:11, we find John teaching people, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Today, too many people would associate that teaching with Jesus, not noticing that it originated with John. Similarly, when Jesus' followers asked him to teach them to pray " John [the Baptist] taught his disciples," Jesus teaches them the version found in Luke's Gospel of what we have come to call, "The Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4). That version is thought by scholars to be the more original between Luke's version and Matthew's version. Those scholars also say that there is evidence that the Sermon on the Mount was shared and preached by both Jesus and John.

Jesus saw himself as the Davidic Messiah and he saw John the Baptist as the counselor who would sit by his throne. Jesus got this from the prophet Zechariah who prophesied, "There shall be a priest by his throne with peaceful understanding between the two of them" (Zechariah 6:13). John the Baptist's father was a priest, which according to Jewish practice would make John a priest by inheritance.

When John the Baptist was executed by Herod sometime in the early part of A.D. 29, Jesus was devastated. Jesus moved to Bethsaida, which was a relatively safe place from Herod, to contemplate what the death of John meant to the success of their mission. Jesus most likely would have consulted the Jewish Scriptures to see what the prophet Zechariah had to say. There he would have found Zechariah 13:7 that predicts that a Shepherd of the Lord would be struck with a sword. John's death had been predicted. The mission was still on the right track.

Not only has Christian theology as taught by the traditional church hierarchy misrepresented Jesus, it has also misrepresented John the Baptist. Time and again, the church hierarchy has made Jesus into something it wanted him to be rather than something that he was in reality.

In reality, Jesus was a Jew and remained a Jew. He saw himself as the Davidic Messiah in partnership with John the Baptist, the Messiah's counselor. His intent was to prepare people for the Apocalypse of God, helping them to get right with God by repenting of their sins and leading a life of love of God and neighbor.

The church hierarchy from the Church Fathers down the line to the Popes and on through the Reformation was antisemitic. They wanted nothing to do with Jews; they suppressed Jesus' Jewishness, under-rated John the Baptist and put words in Jesus' mouth that no Jew would ever have spoken.

The Antisemitic Church

The Gospel of John collectively describes the enemies of Jesus as "the Jews." In none of the other gospels do "the Jews" collectively demand the death of Jesus; instead, the plot to put him to death is always presented as coming from the Sadducees, a small group, members of the Jewish aristocracy in Jerusalem who were closely connected with the Jewish priesthood in charge of the Temple. They seem to have been cooperative with the Roman governor. John's Gospel is thus the primary source of the image of "the Jews" acting collectively as the enemy of Jesus, which later became fixed in the Christian mind.

Under Constantine, Jewish clergy were given the same exemptions as Christian clergy. Constantine, however, supported the separation of the date of Easter from the Jewish Passover, stating in his letter after the First Council of Nicaea:
"... it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul ... Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Savior a different way."

The letter of Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council of Nicea, addressed to those Bishops who were not present, said:
"It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. ... Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. ... Let us ... studiously avoiding all contact with that evil way. ... For how can they entertain right views on any point who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them. ... lest your pure minds should appear to share in the customs of a people so utterly depraved. ... Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews."

Christian Antisemitism developed by the end of the first century and anti-Jewish measures increased over the ensuing centuries. The action taken by Christians against Jews included acts of violence, including outright murder. Christian Antisemitism has been attributed to numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and Synagogue, the Christian drive for converts, and misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practice. These attitudes were reinforced in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching for two millennia, instigating contempt for Jews as well as laws that were designed to humiliate and stigmatize Jews.

The Church Fathers identified Jews and Judaism with heresy and declared the people of Israel to be extra Deum (lat. "outside of God"). Bishops of the Patristic Era such as Augustine argued that the Jews should be left alive and suffering as a perpetual reminder of their murder of Christ. Like his anti-Jewish teacher, St. Ambrose of Milan, he defined Jews as a special subset of those damned to hell. He made collective punishment for the Jews a saintly act to punish them for deicide - killing God - by the enslavement of Jews to Catholics: "Not by bodily death, shall the ungodly race of carnal Jews perish ... 'Scatter them abroad, take away their strength. And bring them down O Lord'". Augustine claimed to "love" the Jews but only as a means to convert them to Christianity. Sometimes he identified all Jews with the evil Judas and developed the doctrine (together with St. Cyprian) that there was "no salvation outside the Church".

Other Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom, went further in their condemnation. John Chrysostom held that the sins of all Jews were communal and endless; to him his Jewish neighbors were the collective representation of all alleged crimes of all preexisting Jews. All Church Fathers applied the passages of the New Testament concerning the alleged advocation of the crucifixion of Christ to all Jews of his day; the Jews were the ultimate evil. However, John Chrysostom went so far as to say that because Jews rejected Christ, they therefore "grew fit for slaughter."

Jerome identified Jews with Judas Iscariot and the immoral use of money ("Judas is cursed, that in Judas the Jews may be accursed... their prayers turn into sins"). Jerome's homiletical assaults contrast Jews with evil, and he said, "the ceremonies of the Jews are harmful and deadly to Christians."

Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the 4th century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. His writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews. Ephraim feared that they were slipping back into Judaism; as such, he portrayed the Jews as enemies of Christianity, like Satan. To him, Christianity was Godly and true and Judaism was Satanic and false. Like John Chrysostom, his objective was to dissuade Christians from reverting to Judaism by emphasizing what he saw as the wickedness of the Jews and their religion.

In the middle ages, religion played a major role in driving antisemitism. Many Christians, including members of the clergy, repeatedly asserted that the Jewish people were collectively responsible for killing Jesus. Antisemitism among European Christians escalated beginning in the 13th century and led to many cases of persecution against Jews. Antisemitic imagery recurred in Christian art and architecture.

Jews were subject to a wide range of legal restrictions throughout the Middle Ages. Jews were excluded from many trades, varying with place and time, and determined by the influence of various non-Jewish competing interests. Often Jews were barred from all occupations except money-lending and peddling, sometimes with even these forbidden. The number of Jews permitted to reside in different places was limited; they were concentrated in ghettos and were not allowed to own land; they were subject to discriminatory taxes on entering cities or districts other than their own, they were forced to swear special oaths; and suffered a variety of other measures, including restrictions on dress, first proclaimed at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215; the same was declared for Muslims at that Council.

In the middle ages in Europe, persecutions and formal expulsions of Jews occurred at intervals. There were particular outbursts of riotous persecution in the Rhineland massacres of 1096 in Germany accompanying the lead-up to the First Crusade, many involving the crusaders as they travelled to the East. There were many local expulsions from cities by local rulers and city councils. In Germany, the Holy Roman Emperor generally tried to restrain persecution, if only for economic reasons, but he was often unable to exert much influence. In the Edict of Expulsion, King Edward I expelled all the Jews from England in 1290 (only after ransoming some 3,000 among the most wealthy of them), on the accusation of usury and undermining loyalty to the monarchy. In 1306, there was a wave of persecution in France; and there were widespread Black Death Jewish persecutions as the Jews were blamed by many Christians for the plague, and spreading it. As late as 1519, the imperial city of Regensburg took advantage of the death of Emperor Maximilian I to expel its 500 Jews.

The largest expulsion of Jews followed the Reconquista, the reunification of Spain; and preceded the expulsion of the Muslims who would not convert, though their rights were protected by the Treaty of Granada (1491). On March 31, 1492, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of Spain who financed Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World just a few months later in 1492, declared that all Jews in their territories should either convert to Christianity or leave the country. While some converted, many others left for Portugal, France, Italy (including the Papal States), Netherlands, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. Many of those who had fled to Portugal were later expelled by King Manuel in 1497, or left to avoid forced conversion and persecution.

On July 14, 1555, Pope Paul IV issued a papal bull, Cum Nimis Absurdum, which revoked all the rights of the Jewish community; placed religious and economic restrictions on Jews in the Papal States; renewed anti-Jewish legislation; and subjected Jews to various degradations and restrictions on their personal freedom. The bull established the Roman Ghetto and required Jews of Rome, who had existed as a community since before Christian times, numbering about 2,000 at the time, to live in it. The Ghetto was a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. Jews were also restricted to one synagogue per city. Paul IV's successor, Pope Pius IV, enforced the creation of other ghettos in most Italian towns, and his successor, Pope Pius V, recommended them to other bordering states.

Martin Luther made overtures to the Jews, believing that the "evils" of Catholicism had prevented their conversion to Christianity. However, when his call to convert to his version of Christianity was unsuccessful, he became hostile to them.

In his book, ON THE JEWS AND THEIR LIES, Luther refers to them as "venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, and devils incarnate." He provided detailed recommendations for a pogrom against them, calling for their permanent oppression and expulsion, writing, "Their private houses must be destroyed and devastated; they could be lodged in stables. Let the magistrates burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them be forced to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs in order not to expose ourselves to incurring divine wrath and eternal damnation from the Jews and their lies." At one point he wrote, "...we are at fault in not slaying them..."

Luther's harsh comments about the Jews are seen by many as a continuation of medieval Christian antisemitism. In his final sermon shortly before his death, however, Luther preached: "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord."

In accordance with the anti-Jewish precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia's discriminatory policies towards Jews intensified when the partition of Poland in the 18th century resulted, for the first time in Russian history, in the possession of land with a large Jewish population. That land was designated as the Pale of Settlement from which Jews were forbidden to migrate into the interior of Russia. In 1772, Catherine II, the empress of Russia, forced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to remain where they were, and forbade them from returning to the towns that they occupied before the partition of Poland.

Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, the Roman Catholic Church still incorporated strong antisemitic elements, despite increasing attempts to separate anti-Judaism (opposition to the Jewish religion on religious grounds) and racial antisemitism. Pope Pius VII (1800–1823) had the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Rome rebuilt after the Jews were emancipated by Napoleon; and Jews were restricted to the ghetto through the end of the Papal States in 1870. Official Catholic organizations, such as the Jesuits, banned candidates "who are descended from the Jewish race unless it is clear that their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have belonged to the Catholic Church" until 1946.

Brown University historian, David Kertzer, working from the Vatican archive, has argued in his book, THE POPES AGAINST THE JEWS, that in the 19th century and early 20th century, the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism." The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions; to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc. Many Catholic bishops wrote articles criticizing Jews on such grounds, and when accused of promoting hatred of Jews, would remind people that they condemned the "bad" kind of antisemitism. Kertzer's work is not, however, without critics. For example, scholar of Jewish-Christian relations, Rabbi David G. Dalin, criticized Kertzer in the Weekly Standard for using evidence selectively. Whether or not Kertzer was selective or over-generalized does not change the fact that there was antisemitism to one degree or another present in the Catholic Church.

Lastly, beware of Christian Zionism!  This is the belief that Jesus Christ will reign on Earth for a thousand years from Jerusalem prior to the end-time. The Jews will see him, understand who he really is and become Christians, thus being saved in the Kingdom of God. So, the Christian Zionists see themselves as friends of Israel and are supportive of it. Don't be fooled by this! It is a form of antisemitism. They do not really accept and respect Jews and their faith. They do not understand that Jesus was a Jew and if and when he returns, he will still be a Jew. They think of them as misguided, but that they will be "saved" in the end by accepting Jesus, thereby becoming Christian. They may act "nice" toward Jews, but with friends like that ... well, you know.

The Year of Jesus the Baptizer

When Jesus was baptized by John, he would have been on the way to Judea to celebrate the Jewish holy days that occurred in the fall of the year. By that time, late in the year A.D. 26, Joseph, Mary's first husband, would have died as would have Mary's second husband, Clophas. Jesus would have been head of the family who would have accompanied him to celebrate the holy days. They too would have seen John baptize Jesus. furthermore, Jesus' baptism would have been a family affair because Jesus and John were related through their mothers. No doubt, they knew each other growing up, and they were only six months apart in age. So, it should not come as a surprise if Jesus' whole family were baptized by John on the same occasion as Jesus was baptized by him.

Jesus spent the following year, A.D. 27, engaging in John's mission of urging people to repent of their sins in anticipation of the soon-to-come Apocalypse of God and baptizing for purity as a completion of their repentance. This year is missing in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. Why?

It was a problem for the church that John baptized Jesus, but it could not be avoided because it was an undeniable fact. However, that Jesus engaged in an equal partnership with John in John's mission was an even bigger problem for the church that wanted to make Jesus superior to John and not a follower of him and a co-equal partner with him.

The gospel writers deal with this is a couple of ways. Mark talks about Jesus going into the desert and being tempted by Satan. Matthew and Luke talk about Jesus fasting and add more details about his temptations. Mark then talks about John being arrested and Jesus coming to Galilee to proclaim the gospel. This gives the impression that very little time passed between Jesus baptism by John and John's arrest. Matthew and Luke follow Mark's lead. So, the gospel writers either don't know, or don't want you to know that Jesus worked with John, baptizing people for a whole year before John was arrested. By the time John writes his Gospel, possibly as late as the beginning of the 2nd century and certainly no earlier than the very late 1st century, there is no mention of John baptizing Jesus. John's Gospel downplays John the Baptist more than any other of the New Testament gospels. Never the less, John's Gospel does briefly mention that Jesus spent some time baptizing (John 3:22-24), but makes it sound like Jesus and John were working independently of one another rather than as partners in the same baptizing mission.

Jesus Bides His Time

Jesus believed that he was the one who would fulfill the prophecies made by Isaiah, Zechariah and Hosea. As such, Jesus had been going around preaching, baptizing, healing and gathering supporters beginning in A.D. 28 and continuing for almost two years. He planned to finish his work in the spring of A.D. 30.

In late fall of A.D. 29, Jesus was informed that the leading Jews of aristocratic class, a small group of Temple priests and Sadducees, were looking for a way to have him arrested and killed. While the majority of the Jews were hoping that Jesus would be the Messiah who would successfully overthrow the Romans, defeat Satan and restore Israel to Jewish rule, inaugurating the Apocalypse that would bring the Kingdom of God into the world, the Sadducees and priests who controlled the temple and cooperated with Roman authority saw Jesus as a rabble-rouser who would bring the terrible wrath of the Romans down upon them.

Jesus wasn't ready for a confrontation yet, so he moved east, with his inner circle of  the Twelve, his family and close supporters, many of whom were women, across the Jordan river to the high hill country of Gilead to relative safety. There, he spent the winter of A.D. 29.

In March of A.D. 30, Passover was near and Jesus decided that was the time for the confrontation that would culminate his mission and bring on the Apocalypse of God. Jesus and his group set out for Jerusalem.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 31st, A.D. 30

On Sunday, March 31st, before the Thursday Passover celebration of A.D. 30, Jesus made a spectacle of entering Jerusalem. He rode on the colt of a donkey. His followers spread garments in front of the colt. Crowds gathered and started spreading leaves from palm trees in front of the colt. All this was reminiscent of Psalm 118 and also of Zechariah 9:9.

The Jewish people in the crowds entering Jerusalem for the Passover celebration would have known that Jesus was making a statement that he was the rightful heir to Israel's throne. So, they started chanting messianic slogans. The crowds were rife for the Romans to be overthrown and for Israel to have its rightful king.

Certainly, some Sadducees, a small but powerful aristocratic sect of Jews who were hostile to Jesus, would have seen what was happening, but none of them wanted to do anything about it right then. The last thing they wanted was to cause a riot that would bring down the wrath of Rome on everyone.

Once in Jerusalem, Jesus melted into the crowds. On Monday morning, April 1st, A.D. 30, he and some of his followers entered the Temple. There, Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers there. This was a sign based on Zechariah 14:21, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 that those prophets' prediction of the corrupt Temple being overthrown was at hand. Jesus even quoted the words of Jeremiah and Isaiah to be sure that no one there could be mistaken at what he was doing.

Once again, Jesus had caused a ruckus, and the Temple authorities, many of whom were Sadducees, sorely wanted to have him arrested and killed; but, again, no one would do anything about it out of fear of the brutal Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who was in town. If he got wind of the ruckus, he would deal with it brutally out of his general disdain for the Jews.

The next day, Tuesday, April 2nd, A.D. 30, Jesus and his Apostles returned to the Temple and verbally sparred with the Temple authorities. As always during the lead up to Passover, the Temple was full of Jews from all over the region. Jesus bested the authorities to the delight of the crowd and taught things that amazed and thrilled the ordinary Jewish worshipers who heard him. Again, the Temple authorities took no action against him, wanting to wait to arrest him when he was alone, away from the crowds, so there would be no riot.

Wednesday Evening, April 3rd, A.D. 30

Jesus planned a special meal between him and his inner circle of Twelve Apostles for Wednesday evening, April 3rd, A.D. 30. This was not the Passover meal. Jesus thought he would get to eat the Passover meal with his family, his mother and siblings, all his close associates, the women who supported him, and his inner circle of Twelve on Thursday evening. No Jew would eat the Passover meal apart from the whole family. The Wednesday meal was to be alone with his inner circle of The Twelve and no one else. It was definitely not the Passover meal, which would only occur on the evening when Passover began; in that year the Passover meal would have been held on Thursday evening, not Wednesday evening.

Sometime during the day on Wednesday, Jesus learned  that one of The Twelve had betrayed him to the Jewish Sadducee leading priests. Things were coming to a head quicker than he had expected and he knew he very likely would not get to eat the Passover meal on Thursday evening. He wanted to prepare his inner circle of The Twelve for what was likely to come quickly.

Judas Iscariot had struck a deal with Jesus' Sadducee enemies to have him arrested. Judas would have already given them information that warranted the arrest and would hold up with the Romans. At the Wednesday evening dinner with the Twelve, Jesus announced that after they ate there would be a prayer retreat in the Garden of Gethsemane. This would be a secluded spot perfect for an arrest of Jesus without arousing the massive crowds of Jesus' Jewish supporters, Jews from all over the world who came to Jerusalem yearly for the Passover celebration. As soon as Judas heard this, he left to tell the leading Sadducee priests. He had already told them that Jesus had claimed to be King of the Jews, which would be the grounds for the arrest. All the Sadducee leading priests were waiting for was to learn when Jesus would be in a secluded spot.

As was the custom during all Jewish meals, bread was broken, wine was shared and blessings were said over each. This is what was done at the meal on Wednesday evening that Jesus shared with The Twelve. Jesus never said anything about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Such a thing was absolutely forbidden under Jewish law and Jesus was a faithful Jew who never would have ever even thought of such a thing, let alone said it.

The words that came to be said decades after Jesus' crucifixion came from Paul, not from Jesus. In a letter to his followers at Corinth in A.D. 54, Paul said the words about eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood as a new covenant. Paul says he "received" those words from Jesus. How or when he "received" the words from Jesus is not revealed. Certainly Paul was not present at that Wednesday evening meal; and Paul wrote those words 24 years after Jesus' crucifixion.

Jesus' Apostles knew that Jesus never said those words because they were at that Wednesday evening meal. Two of those Twelve were Jesus' brothers and they never spoke of any such words said by Jesus. Furthermore, the record that we have of the Eucharist in an ancient Christian instruction manual titled, "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," used to instruct candidates for Christian baptism, contains these words, "With respect to the Eucharist you shall give thanks as follows. First with respect to the cup: 'We give you thanks our Father for the Holy Vine of David, your child which you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.' And with respect to the bread: 'We give you thanks our Father for the life and knowledge that you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.'

There is no mention of wine being blood and bread being flesh in this record of the early Christian Eucharist. This early community of followers of Jesus did not get their Eucharist prayer from Paul. They likely knew that this was the prayer used by the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jerusalem, led by the successor of Jesus, his brother, James the Just. I will tell you more about James in a later post.

Paul was inventing his own theology for his own reasons rather than following what The Twelve knew from first hand experience. Unfortunately, Paul's contrived theology served the later organized church of the gentiles very well for their own purposes, wanting to separate themselves from Jesus' Jewishness.

Getting back to the Wednesday evening meal with Jesus and The Twelve, after they finished eating and talking, Jesus led the way for the remaining eleven of The Twelve to Gethsemane. Judas Iscariot had already left to betray Jesus to the leading Sadducee priests. Eventually, Judas arrived with those leading priests, a bunch of Temple police and a 600 man cohort of Roman soldiers. This was clearly a Roman operation. Jesus was arrested and led away by the Roman soldiers. 

The Apocalyptic Assumptions of Jesus of Nazareth

This is how Professor of Religious Studies and New Testament Historian, Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, summarizes the apocalyptic assumptions of Jesus of Nazareth:

This world is a creation of God. He made it.  And since he made it, it was originally good, a utopian place of joy and pleasure for all of God’s creatures.

Something happened to ruin this blessed state of things. Roughly speaking, apocalypticists expressed two options:

  • There was some kind of “fall of the angels,” where some angelic beings decided to violate God’s will and the result was the horrible state of things that entered into creation. OR
  • Humans blew it by preferring evil to good.

In either case, the world is a mess NOT because of a flaw in God’s character or because he messed it up. It was some form of intelligence other than God that had brought about the pain and suffering endemic to this world.

God, however, is ultimately sovereign over all things, and will reassert his control over this world by once again restoring it to its original utopian state. If God were *not* to do that, then it would show that he is not Sovereign, that he had been defeated by the powers of evil.  But that is not possible.  And so the restoration of the original pristine state of the world is certain to come, and probably come soon.

Crucifixion, Thursday, April 4, A.D. 30

After being arrested by the Romans, Jesus went through a three-part trial. He was first taken before the corrupt Jewish High Priest. This was not a legal trial under Temple Law. For it to be legal, the whole Sanhedrin of seventy elders would have had to be present. The high priest didn't want that because Jesus had some supporters within the Sanhedrin. Remember, most Jews supported Jesus. It was mainly a small, but powerful, number of Sadducees whose power and wealth was threatened by him.

The reason for this appearance before the High Priest was to get Jesus to make seditious statements that could be reported to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Jesus remained silent until he was asked if he was the Messiah. Jesus said he was. This was the same as saying that he was Israel's rightful, Davidic King.

Jesus was turned over to the Temple guards to be held until he could be turned over to Pontius Pilate. Those guards were none too easy on Jesus. They roughed him up and threw insults at him. Sometime later, early on that Thursday morning, Jesus was taken before Pilate.

Pilate was told the that Jesus was a threat; that he was opposed to paying Roman Taxes and that he claimed to be the King of the Jews. Under Roman Law, these charges carried the death penalty by crucifixion.

Pilate decide to question Jesus himself away from his accusers. Roman Governors, however brutal some of them were, followed Roman Law. since Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate decided to send him to Herod Antipas, the Roman appointed, local ruler of that area.

Jesus said nothing to Herod. It didn't matter. Herod had been wanting to kill Jesus for quite some time. So, after Herod and his soldiers taunted and insulted Jesus, Herod sent him back to Pontius Pilate with an endorsement for crucifixion. Roman Law had been satisfied. On Pilate's order, Jesus was flogged and then led out to Golgotha, the place where Romans regularly carried out crucifixions. There, along with two other Roman prisoners, Jesus was crucified at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. By 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, Jesus was dead.

Jesus is Removed from the Cross

No one in Jesus family had made any preparations for his burial. His death came as a shock to them. They had believed he would be victorius.

Jesus died at 3 p.m. and the Passover meal would begin at sundown. Jesus had a friend and supporter in a wealthy and influential member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea. He couldn't do anything to stop Jesus' crucifixion because the Chief priest acted without informing any members of the Sanhedrin who would have supported Jesus. By the time Joseph found out, it was too late. The trial was over and Pilate had ordered the crucifixion.

There was only one thing Joseph could still do. He could try to spare Jesus' family the shame of having Jesus' corpse hang on the cross overnight. Such a thing was forbidden for Jews. Even if they couldn't help it, it would be considered a disgrace.

Joseph went to Pontius Pilate and requested the privilege of removing Jesus corpse from the cross. Normally, Pilate would not have allowed it. However, Jesus had a great number of followers among the Jews in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration. Jews had come there from all over to be in Jerusalem for the celebration. Joseph of Arimathea's status and the possibility that the great number of Jews in Jerusalem at the time would rise up against the Romans if Jeus' corpse was left on the cross caused Pilate to grant Joseph's request. The last thing Pilate wanted was a Jewish uprising. If such a thing happened, the Roman Emperor would be furious with Pilate for not having done enough to prevent it.

The Temporary and Permanent Tombs of Jesus

Joseph of Aramethea could not have removed Jesus from the cross by himself. Most likely, he had the help of Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin who was sympathetic to the Messianic Movement of Jesus of Nazareth.

Late Thursday afternoon, after removing Jesus from the cross, Joseph and Nicodemus placed his body in a newly hewn, rock tomb that happened to be near the place of Jesus' crucifixion. This was to be a temporary burial until after the Passover and Sabbath Holy Days ended, which would be after sundown on Saturday. At that time, Jesus' family could return and give Jesus a proper burial according to Jewish funerary rites and customs.

Mary, Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene, Jesus' wife, followed Joseph of Aramethea and Nicodmus to the temporary tomb so they would know where it was. Jesus was wrapped in a linen shroud and laid on a stone slab in the tomb.Finally, the small entrance to the tomb was blocked with a stone to keep animals and passersby out.

After sunset on Saturday, April 6, A.D. 30,  Jesus' mother and sisters returned to the temporary tomb and moved Jesus to a permanent tomb, possibly one supplied to the family by Joseph of Arimathea that was on his estate. Jesus was placed in that tomb and his body was prepared according to Jewish custom. That became Jesus' final resting place. It was discovered in 1980, uncovered inadvertently by a construction crew building apartment housing in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem.

The tomb that the Gospels report as being empty on Sunday morning, April 7, A.D. 30 was the temporary tomb. Whoever discovered it empty (the Gospels disagree as to who this was) soon would learn the truth from Jesus' family and the Apostles, among whom was James the Just, Jesus' brother.