Where does this leave us?
Let me first admit some traditions that I believe to be based
- Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married at the wedding
feast at Cana. This makes the story of her alleged later
adultery all the more poignant.
- The town of Nazareth dates from the third century. In Aramaic the word
could have meant Victorious. After the destruction of the Temple this
would have had a hollow ring, so translating it into Greek as if it was a
placename would have removed an obstacle for Greek-speakers. There was a
tendency in the early church: suppress or modify inconvenient passages,
which is evident from the text of the gospels that has come down to us,
and in the writings of such as Eusebius.
- I have seen it persuasively argued (Bernard D Muller: Historical
Jesus) that Jesus' baptism was in 27 AD and the crucifixion in 28 AD.
- I believe that the Holy Family spent some time in France
between 28 AD and at least 38 AD. There are many ancient
artefacts showing the Holy Family in a boat (as a man and
a woman and one or more children). A Christmas carol to
this effect (I saw three ships come sailing by) is widely
sung to this day. But Jesus was dead by
43AD when Paul was conducting his mission.
Putting this perspective together with the foregoing study of the Biblical texts,
I end up with the following:
- Resurrection stories were quite common at the time, and there are several in the gospels. So bringing back Jesus from the dead does not make him unique or particularly special. The empty tomb is admitted by many witnesses. Nevertheless I have problems with the resurrection story, which seems to me an elaborate deception. Various fabrications surround it (e.g. Mt 28:2-4,11-15). But as with the Transfiguration, and the preparations for the Passover,
the provision of the tomb, and the ascension, I consider the unexpected appearance of someone with authority from on high should not too readily be identified as an angel (or conversely, regard this sort of intervention as what is meant here by angel). To me it all looks like something hidden from the disciples but very well planned,
linked to the divisions within the Sanhedrin about the Roman occupation, and
to Pilate's machinations.
- I share many other people's misgivings about the stories surrounding the entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. But as a piece of theatre engineered to provoke the Romans and justify a crucifixion it is perfect. They could not persuade Jesus to enter, warrior-like, on a horse, but could use the biblical texts to claim this as a greater threat. See the reference to the Sanhedrin debates on these points in John 11:47-48.
- I believe that the account in Galatians of Paul's dispute
with Jesus' brethren (James and the other
"pillars" of the church), and Luke's version of
it in Acts 15, indicate a real split between the
followers of Jesus as King of the Jews and the gentile
Christians, which came out in the open during the Jewish
revolt that led to the destruction of the Temple. Indeed
many Christian communities today rely on Paul's words (in
Corinthians etc) rather than on Jesus'. Paul is quite a
prophet, but he is not greater than Jesus.
- I believe that almost all the prophecies in the New
Testament have already been fulfilled (as usual with
prophecies, to a greater or lesser extent). Many of
Jesus' prophecies directly relate to the destruction of
the Temple, and most of his other words that some people
take to refer to the end of the world are instead about
the same events, the end of the age. Likewise the book of
Revelation, mostly written about 67-70AD, relates mostly to the
destruction of the Temple in 70AD.
Parts of the Gospels may have been written before this - dates as early as
47 AD are feasible - but a date for Mark's gospel of 70AD is quite
persuasive. In any case here is a lot of evidence of additions being made to
the Gospels and other writings up to105 AD,
and these additions probably include most of these prophecies.
- The books of the New Testament contain many references to
the Lord coming again with power and great glory, but
this was a misunderstanding of the humility of teachings (the kingdom of
God as mustard seed) and the idea of entering
Jerusalem on an ass's colt. His power and his kingdom
were and are heavenly rather than earthly, as he and John
Baptist announced right at the beginning. (Note that Paul in Romans 1:4 seems to suggest that
the coming with power refers merely to the resurrection.)
I doubt if many
of his hearers, or those who survived the destruction of
the Temple, felt that the coming of such a kingdom, or its prince of
good news, more as an impending calamity requiring
I confess to some suspicion that Constantine saw, or was encouraged to
see, himself as the new Messiah, ehose kingdom would have no end.
- I believe that Jesus is aptly named as Victorious Saviour
("Jesus of Nazareth"!). Although at the start
of his ministry, many of his words come from John
Baptist, there is soon a very great deal that is fresh
and unique: the parables, the beatitudes (to be contrasted with Psalm
37), "my yoke
is easy and my burden light", the commandments of
Jesus etc, and these are the words of salvation.
- Thus his eschatological elevation in the Trinity whose
eternality both predates and postdates man's era is
therefore justified. I am happy with Paul's summary in Romans 1:1-6.
I am therefore comfortable with
sayings such as "I and the Father are one" and
"All power in heaven and earth has been delivered to
me" (even though as it happens the style of these two sayings fits
badly with their context and strongly suggests late additions). I am happy with the idea of a final judgment
for me against the words of salvation, and hope for
redemption and the forgiveness of sins. However I find
the idea of eternal rest much more appealing than eternal
Malcolm Crowe, 25 April 1999-30 Sept 2001