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5 Commitment in:

Steuart Campbell

The Rise and Fall of Jesus, page 105 - 136

A Complete Explanation for the Life of Jesus and the Origin of Christianity

3. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4346-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7327-8, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828873278-105

Tectum, Baden-Baden
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Commitment Signs of the times If the Nazarenes thought that 33 was a sabbatical year, indeed the year that would see the end of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel’s prophecy and the death of Messiah-ben-Joseph, then they must have thought that 26 was also a sabbatical year. In that year, Pontius Pilate became the fifth Roman governor of Judaea. This itself was not significant, but one of the first actions of this notorious ruler was to introduce into the Castle of Antonia, incorporated into the Temple complex, what Josephus called the ensigns bearing Caesar’s effigy (Antiq. 18:3:1). Kraeling discussed this incident at length and attempted to identify the signa (standards) to which Josephus referred. He also attempted to discover the reason why the actions of Pilate’s troops should have provoked a riot when Rome had occupied the province for twenty years. His conclusion was that Pilate, for the first time, moved an infantry cohort from Caesarea to Jerusalem and because no cohort moved without its signa, these naturally came into the Antonia. Whether the signa were, as Josephus claimed, embossed representations of the Emperor or whether they were theriomorphic images (in animal form), is unclear. Certainly they must have been images of either man or beast or both, either of which could have caused a riot. The emblem of Quirinius, the boar, might have been among these standards. Jewish law prohibited the making of images, human or animal and Jews were outraged that such images should have been carried into the Antonia where the high priests’ robes were kept in Roman custody. It led to a very serious confrontation, in which the Jewish leaders dared Pilate to kill them all unless he removed the standards. Pilate capitulated and sent the ensigns, probably with the troops that carried them, back to Caesarea. Apart from consternation on account of the violation of the law, there was speculation that the event signalled the coming of the Messiah. It was popularly known that Daniel had prophesied that the holy 5 105 place would be violated. If the event occurred in a sabbatical year, it may have been seen as very significant, by the Nazarenes if by no one else. Klausner (1956) noted the belief that ‘when suffering is severest, the redeemer is nearest’ and consequently that, during the tyranny of Herod and his sons and especially during the rule of the Roman procurators (prefects) in Judaea, a whole series of false (sic) Messiahs suddenly appeared and quickly disappeared. Kraeling (1942) suggested that the incident of the ensigns was interpreted as fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy and that it might have stirred John the Baptist into action. Bullinger, in his Appendix 99, noted that Matthew’s genealogy breaks into three groups of fourteen, the first from Abraham to King David and the second from David to the Captivity. The third group, starting with the restoration ended with Jesus. Only Ratzinger has seen this as significant, in his case as justification for believing that Jesus was the ‘definitive David’. He also noted that the numerical value (in Hebrew) of ‘david’ is 14. However, the Nazarenes might have seen this as another reason for believing that the time had come for the appearance of the Kingdom and the Messiah. Therefore, for several reasons, John the Nazarene might have thought that the age was near its end. If Messiah-ben-Joseph must die in 33, then he was already born and must appear soon. The incident of the standards may have been taken as a sign that Daniel’s prophecy was about to be fulfilled and that the Messiah was ready. If the chronology is slightly wrong and John did not commence preaching until 29, then the partial eclipse of the sun on 24 November 29 may have been seen as a sign of the times (Wells). Daniel-Rops thought that John began to preach in the winter of 27/28; John Robinson (1985) put it in the autumn of 27. That the Nazarenes had been counting and calculating the time may explain a remark attributed by Mark to Jesus when he began his ministry. Jesus declared that ‘the time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near’ (Mk 1:15). What else could he mean but that the time for the appearance of the kingdom had arrived? How would he know that it was due except by some numerical calculation as explained above? 5 Commitment 106 The Announcer John preached in the desert east of the River Jordan, near a brook called Cherith, at Beth-nimrah, an oasis some 12½ miles (20 km) east of the Jordan (Graves & Podro). He dressed in a camel skin with a leather belt and ate locust-beans and wild honey. His message seems to have consisted of quotations from Malachi and Isaiah, to the effect that God will send a messenger before the coming of the kingdom and that this messenger’s lone voice will be heard in a desert. He implied that he was the messenger. He maintained that it was time for the kingdom to appear and warned that Israel should repent before it was too late. The prophets of Israel were always distinguished by their rough clothing, but Klausner (1925) noted that a skin and leather belt were worn by Elijah the Tishbite (II Kings 1:8) who hid himself in the same area. Klausner concluded that John imagined himself to be Elijah; it had been prophesied (Mal. 4:5) that Elijah would return before the kingdom of God could appear. Who John was, who he thought he was, and who others thought he was, are questions that crop up several times in the Gospels. According to John’s Gospel, John denied that he was either the expected prophet (Elijah) or the Messiah (John 1:21). However he did believe that there was someone to come, whose sandals he was not worthy to carry (Matt. 3:11). But according to Jesus, John was Elijah (Matt. 17:12–13). It seems possible that John imagined that he was the messenger of Malachi (Mal. 3:1) and that this messenger was Elijah. For this reason he went to preach at the place associated with the prophet, in fact where Elijah was supposed to have been translated into heaven (II Kings 2:7–11). It was reasonable to suppose that Elijah would reappear where he had disappeared. It is also possible that John was himself looking for Elijah’s reappearance and that he went where he thought he should find him. In that case, he walked onto the divine stage not realizing that only the dramatis personae could appear in public. Believing that pre-ordained events were about to occur, he fearlessly stood up and announced the kingdom. It cannot have occurred to him that his announcement itself would bring about the event he sought – the appearance of the Messiah. He hoped only to prepare the people to face the future. Yet he him- The Announcer 107 self precipitated the subsequent acclamation of Jesus as Messiah. Without John’s voice in the wilderness, Jesus could not have found his Elijah. Both men made confident declarations: John that Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus that John was Elijah. They were both desperate to find in each other the figure they sought and of course they saw what they wanted to see. Necessarily Jesus had to place John as his Elijah. Reimarus remarked that, by their extraordinary actions at one and the same time, John and Jesus furthered each other’s purposes. He wrote, ‘John made use then of representations and inventions to further the design of Jesus, and Jesus was perfectly well aware that he did so’. The suspicious might argue that John and Jesus, both leaders of the Nazarenes, conspired to elect each other to positions of power. If Jesus thought that he was the Messiah and that he personally would institute the kingdom, he would have to show the people an Elijah; John fitted the description. Schweitzer (1925) believed that John thought that Jesus was Elijah the Forerunner and did not dream that Jesus had placed him in that position. Schweitzer pointed out that no one except Jesus considered John to be Elijah and that Jesus argued that John must be Elijah because he (Jesus) was the Messiah. As far as we can see, John made no claim to be Elijah or to be any official herald of the Messiah. Both John and Jesus could have seen each other as Elijah, while only Jesus saw himself as the Messiah. Strauss thought it inconceivable that John should ever have held and pronounced Jesus to be the Messiah because John’s asceticism would not have permitted him to approve of Jesus’ indulgence. Both John and Jesus proclaimed the message, ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matt. 3:2). There was a common idea derived from the Talmud that the coming of the kingdom could be hastened by repentance (Klausner 1925). Kersten & Gruber (1995:90) saw Jesus’ claim that John was Elijah reborn as an endorsement of a belief in the Indian idea of reincarnation, so justifying their belief that Jesus was a Buddhist. However they confused reincarnation with resurrection, a quite different concept. Jesus can only have believed that John was Elijah resurrected, not that he was another incarnation of his spirit. 5 Commitment 108 Carmichael saw John the Baptist as the organiser of a seditious group that Jesus inherited. Baptism It is not clear how John came to baptize multitudes in the Jordan. It may have been a means to publicize his warnings about the kingdom; those who came to be baptized would hear his message. It may have had something to do with Qumran, where baptism was practised. Perhaps he also hoped that the one he was looking for would be among the visitors and that identification would be by means of some sign. The Gospels tell us that Jesus came to be baptized by John at the Jordan (in March 29 according to Thiering), but he may already have been among John’s followers. If he was related to John and was a Nazarene, then he could already have been in John’s company. It may be, as the Gospel of Hebrews asserts, that Jesus was urged to baptism by his family (Klausner 1925); if his life had been dedicated to God, he could hardly avoid responding to John’s call. It is claimed that John demurred to baptize Jesus, preferring to have Jesus baptize him. This may be a Christian interpolation to elevate Jesus. Even so, it is not explained how John could have recognized the Messiah. Could John have deferred to Jesus? Could he have thought it inappropriate for Jesus to be baptized? Perhaps it reveals that John was surprised that one of his followers, especially his own cousin Jesus, should have sought baptism and declared the need to repent. It is arguable that John would not expect his own followers to need the baptism offered to the public. It is also arguable that John would not expect his cousin to need to repent. Jesus’ holiness and dedication to God may have been well known to him. But why did Jesus want to be baptized? In answer to John’s demurring, he replied ‘let it be so for now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness’ (Matt. 3:15). The use of the first person plural suggests that the two were already working together. Jesus’ answer implied that the Baptism was necessary to fulfil some essential part of the Messiah’s programme. Perhaps he saw it as the ritual washing that preceded anointment (Exod. 29:4). The name Baptism 109 ‘messiah’ means ‘anointed-one’ and at some time or other he must be anointed with oil (Exod. 29:7). Was Jesus already sure that he was the Messiah? It is claimed that John recognized Jesus as the Messiah before the Baptism (John 1:29). However, several times John exclaimed that he did not know Jesus as the Chosen One until after a sign from heaven (John 1:31–33). How can it be that John recognized Jesus before the sign? It seems likely that John did not recognize Jesus as Messiah or as Elijah before the Baptism, but that he did recognize him as his cousin. John admitted that he was looking for the Chosen One and claimed that even then he was standing among them (John 1:26). We may imagine John baptizing daily in the Jordan and searching the faces of all who came to him, wondering how he would recognize the Holy One. Then, as he was baptizing Jesus, some meteorological event occurred that was thought to be auspicious. The text claims that John saw a spirit in the shape of a dove descend upon Jesus and that he heard a voice from heaven. Thunder was thought to be the voice of God or an angel (John 12:29). Perhaps a sudden valley storm occurred just as he baptized Jesus. Perhaps a dove really did land on Jesus. Venturini suggested this explanation for the Baptismal phenomena (Schweitzer 1954). The story reminded Graves and Podro of the hawk, representing solar power, which descended on Pharaoh at his coronation. Perhaps the story was invented to invest Jesus with divine approval. If John looked for a sign, then he may have been more than satisfied by a combination of meteorological and avian events. If he was asked why he could not recognize the face of the Messiah, he could have explained that he was only able to make the identification by reason of the signs. It is recorded that John, when he first saw Jesus, hailed him as the ‘lamb of God’ (John 1:29), a reference to Isaiah 53:7. In fact the verses of John may be out of chronological order and this greeting may be the same as that which John is recorded as making the following day (John 1:36). By that time, he may have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, although later he had doubts (Matt. 11:3). We have considered the possibility that John and Jesus stage-managed the Baptism to establish Jesus as the Messiah. But we must also consider the alternative, that Jesus submitted to baptism without any 5 Commitment 110 prior belief that he was the Messiah. In that case he took his cue from John, accepting John’s interpretation of the auguries, that he was the Messiah. All his life he had thought of himself as dedicated to God and here he was being chosen by John. Moorcock tells a tale in which a modern man, who goes back in time to search for the Messiah, finds himself cast in the role. Perhaps Jesus went to the Jordan in the hope of finding the Messiah and found that it was himself. Klausner (1925) remarked that the Baptism was the most decisive event in Jesus’ life and that Jesus’ strong dedication led him to believe that it marked divine approval; ‘suddenly there flashed through Jesus’ mind, like blinding lightning, the idea that he was the hoped-for Messiah’. Borsch saw some vital symbolism in the Baptism, where the king struggles against watery chaos and dies, but is revived and born again to claim his kingdom. He suggested that Jesus first grasped the idea at his Baptism – the idea of a suffering Man, an idea that Jesus ‘put to service in historical circumstances’. He drew attention to passages (Luke 12:50; Mark 10:38) where Jesus’ death is referred to as baptism. Salibi (1988:37) thought that the story was told to give a special interpretation of two passages in the Old Testament (Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1), but this seems very unlikely. Whatever happened at the Jordan, there can be no doubt that Jesus derived his authority from John (Matt. 21:23–27) and was at pains to show that John was the Forerunner (Matt. 11:7–14). His claim to Messiahship must therefore be founded on his Baptism, if not on an identification by John. Hardly anyone doubted that John was a divine spokesman; if John had chosen Jesus then no one could deny Jesus his claim. Doubt has been cast on the historicity of the Baptism. However, it was an embarrassment to Christianity (Goguel 1933). According to John the Baptist, baptism was a sign of repentance and regeneration; the Church can hardly have been overjoyed to have to explain how Christ needed either. Because Jesus himself did not baptize and it was uncharacteristic of his programme, the account is probably true (Grant 1973). Crossan wrote: ‘Jesus’ baptism by John is one of the surest things we know about them both’. Baptism 111 Temptations The synoptic evangelists tell us that, after baptism, Jesus retired to the desert for contemplation of the novel situation in which he now found himself. This tends to confirm the idea that Jesus had not expected to be the Messiah. It is imagined that he was tempted by the Devil to use his Messianic power in spectacular fashion. No one who believed in Jesus as Messiah would have pictured him as being tempted, such temptations playing no part in previous anticipations of the Messiah. However legendary the accounts of the Baptism and Temptation may be, we are justified in recognizing them as historical events and, what is more, as linked events. Furthermore, if the account of the Temptation does not come from Jesus, it comes from a close disciple who intimately understood his mind. The Messianic character of the Temptation is so clearly relevant, not to the life of the Church, but to the life of Jesus (Seeley). Sanday believed that the Temptation is one of the most authentic things in the Gospels. Craveri claimed that the Temptation of Jesus represented a spiritual conflict at the critical moment of renouncing forever the joys of this world in order to answer a religious vocation heavy with sacrifice and that Jesus may later have described this inner drama in figurative terms that tradition has taken too literally. Few have doubted the historicity of the Temptation, but Salibi (1988:38) claimed that the story ‘expands’ on four passages in the Old Testament (Deut. 6:13,16; 8:3; Ps. 91:11–12), ‘which Jesus is actually made to quote in dialogue with his tempter’. He appears to overlook the possibility that Jesus did in fact quote these passages. However he may be correct in claiming that the 40 days is symbolic, ‘a topos to indicate a full term’ (period of The Flood, manna in the desert, Moses’ time on Sinai). At first Jesus was tempted to feed himself. If he really was the Son of Man, then he should have command of the whole world or all nature. He should at least be able to command that the stones that lay all about him turn into loaves of bread. But, apart from hunger, he may have had another reason for considering such a command. The word ‘temptation’ is an inappropriate translation of the Greek peirasmos (Luke 4:13), which means trial or testing. In the conventional interpretation, the Devil tested Jesus, to see if he really was the Messiah. It is 5 Commitment 112 more likely that Jesus was tested by his own doubts and that he projected these doubts upon Satan. Jesus may have had doubts about John’s identification and may have wanted to test it. He could have wanted to prove to himself that he was indeed the Messiah; he could do this by working a miracle. But Jesus also knew his Scriptures; he knew that he was forbidden to test his God (Deut. 6:16) as the Israelites did at Massah. It was believed that, on that occasion, Moses had produced water from a rock to prove that God was with them. Yahveh had since prohibited such tests. So in order to prove to himself that he was the Messiah, Jesus would have to violate the Law of Moses. What a dilemma! Yet if he did not try the power, how would he know that he was the Messiah? Clearly Jesus cannot have had any inner certainty that he was the Messiah. He was an ordinary man who had been told that he was God’s chosen ruler of the whole Earth. Surely he needed some evidence that this was so. Jesus’ resolution of this dilemma is ingenious. He supposes that the idea of such a test came from the Devil and he concluded that if Satan was that interested in him then he must be the Messiah. He concluded that obedience to God’s word was more important than food, that although the Israelites had fed on manna in the desert, he would feed on the word of God. Neither then nor at any later time did Jesus attempt to invoke supernatural power, even though he always believed that it was available in an instant (Matt. 26:53). His regard for Scriptural authority always prevented him making such a test. Had he tried the test, he would have exploded the myth; he would have found that there was no such power. Jesus claimed powers that he never used or demonstrated, but he was sure must exist. If he was the Messiah, then perhaps he should make a public declaration and stand on the Temple ramparts where he was expected. He could throw himself off and be borne up by angels. Then he could command the obedience of all the nations of the world, as was his right. Why should he not begin immediately on this great enterprise? Surely he should waste no time in establishing God’s holy kingdom on Earth. It must be clear that Jesus rejected the idea of taking the world by force (Matt. 11:12), not because he did not expect to rule the world, but because he thought that the divine plan required him to follow another course. It was not the end but the means that offended him. He was as Temptations 113 ambitious as anyone and may have relished the idea of being world ruler. Shelley set his sights too low when he claimed that he had reason to believe that Jesus was an ambitious man who aspired to the throne of Judaea; Jesus may have aspired to the world throne, to replace the Emperor in Rome. Such was the inheritance of the Messiah-ben-David. Lightley suggested that Jesus was tempted by Zealots to seize political power. Certainly some would have made him Messiah (John 6:15). But Jesus may already have learned from the Nazarenes that he was Messiah-ben-Joseph, destined to suffer humiliation and death. If he believed that Scripture forecast such a course for the Messiah, then he could not have abandoned it. He may have been tempted to take a short cut to Paradise, but he knew that it would not be successful. He was sure that success could only be achieved by following the Scriptural programme. Indeed, as we shall see, he was convinced that the divine plan must be followed, would be followed. He put aside any idea of precipitate action and determined to follow the difficult route plotted by the Nazarenes. The historicity of the Temptation is linked with the historicity of the Baptism. That we can read of this inner conflict is evidence that it was real. How could later myth-makers have thought up the idea of the Messiah debating with himself whether or not to use his power openly for control of Israel and the world? Kersten & Gruber (1995:156) compared Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation with the Buddha gaining enlightenment after bathing in a river, subsequently facing a decision about whether to use the ‘profound insights’ he had been granted for personal or public salvation. They believe that Jesus made his first appearance among John’s followers and that, with his radical Buddhist teachings, attracted the attention of many who made the pilgrimage to the Jordan in the expectation of splendid events (1995:162). Who did he think he was? According to Guignebert (1935), because the evidence produced by the evangelists is distorted by an already developed Christology wholly foreign to his mind, it has become very difficult, if not impossible, for 5 Commitment 114 us to determine what Jesus said of himself and of his relation to the kingdom he proclaimed. But one thing is certain: if Jesus pretended to be or believed that he was Messiah-ben-Joseph, he did not believe that he was divine (Matt. 19:17). Gospel claims to that effect can be ignored. Klausner (1925) has shown at length that Jesus never regarded himself as God. The Jewish Messiah was to be human, an ordinary mortal chosen by God to rule in his place. Judaism knows only one divine figure: its god Yahveh. If the author of I John 4:12 could write that no one has ever seen God, then Jesus could not have been that God and the Church’s belief that Jesus was God incarnate is fundamentally mistaken. But did Jesus believe that he was the Messiah? A related question is, to whom did he refer as ‘the Son of Man’? Most of those who have considered these questions have not understood that there might have been a contemporary belief in two Messiahs. An exception was Hugh Anderson, who noted a recently expressed view that, in predicting the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus was speaking not of himself but of another eschatological figure (1967:141). Let us not review all the arguments that have raged over the meaning of ‘the Son of Man’, but that it is enigmatic surely indicates that it was not a title invented by the evangelists. The idea that it was an alias for the Messiah would be consistent with Nazarene principles. It would also be a useful codename in an occupied country. Klausner (1925) believed that Jesus used the name deliberately, partially to reveal his identity as Messiah, a hint and a clue to the discerning, while to most it would mean simply ‘a man’; to the learned it would call an echo from the Messianic writings. Goguel (1933) thought that Jesus used the term ‘son of Man’ to conceal his Messiahship from the masses, whose conception of that figure was so different from his, and to Schweitzer (1948) Jesus always spoke of the Son of Man in the third person so that none of his listeners could understand that he himself expected to be clad with this honour. However Guignebert (1935) doubted that Jesus described himself as ‘the Son’ and thought it even more improbable that those around him designated him so. Crossan rejected the idea that the term was a circumlocution for ‘I’ and claimed that it was a reference to humanity in general. Sanders (1993:247) claimed that it is not possible to come to a firm conclusion about Jesus’ use of the phrase. Who did he think he was? 115 If they desired to make him king, the Nazarenes had to avoid any outright declaration that would upset the course of events they foresaw. Reimarus noted that Jesus did not deny that he was a king and he supposed that his reticence was due to a wish to make the proclamation in Jerusalem. I will examine this possibility. Burkitt pointed out that because ‘messiah’ meant anointed king, it could not be used of a claimant. In this sense ‘the Son of Man’ may have been Jesus’ term for the Messiah-to-be (himself). Borsch summed up the matter by admitting ambiguity on the part of the Gospels and frustration among those who have attempted to synthesize the two viewpoints; that on the one hand Jesus referred to himself and that on the other he referred to a future eschatological figure. There is evidence for both views. Of Luke 12:8, he asked why it did not read ‘whoever confesses the Son of Man (me) …’. It may be true that Jesus used the term ‘son of Man’ to represent himself, but how are we to resolve the duality of those references, some appearing to speak in the first person and some in the third? Only by proposing that Jesus not only thought that he was the first Messiah, but that he would become the second. Whichever Messiah he thought himself to be, references to the other Messiah are most likely to have been in the third person. At the same time, since he expected to play both parts, he may sometimes have used the first person. Some have shown insight into this problem. Murry thought that Jesus believed that he was to become the Messiah and that it was Jesus himself not later generations who saw him prefigured in the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Murry was scornful of those who claimed that Jesus could not conceive this for himself. Schweitzer (1925) also understood the duality of Jesus’ personality, that Jesus was both himself and the coming Son of Man. He described Jesus as a Messiah who, during his public ministry, would not be one, did not need to be and might not be for the sake of fulfilling his mission. He concluded that Jesus’ Messianic consciousness was futuristic. Schweitzer also considered the account of the occasion when John the Baptist questioned Jesus about his identity (Luke 7:18–23); John asked if Jesus was the ‘coming one’. According to Schweitzer, Jesus was in a difficult position, not wishing to admit his Messiahship openly, nor believing that he was the Forerunner. Neither could he deny that he was the Messiah or the Forerunner. So he gave a reply that would be understood by John alone to 5 Commitment 116 mean that he was the Messiah, for the signs he points to could only accompany that man. It was a reply typical of a Nazarene trying to keep his secret from the public, even from John’s disciples, while trying to convey a message to his mentor. That Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah, Klausner (1925) alleged, is proved by the fact that his Messianic claims became a fundamental principle of Christianity soon after the Crucifixion. If he had kept it too dark a secret the disciples could not have proclaimed his priority. Jesus’ beliefs are also revealed by an interesting and intriguing incident recorded by Mark (Mark 12:35–37). Jesus asked how it was that the scribes taught that the Messiah was, at one and the same time, David’s son and his Lord and he quoted Psalm 110:1, the basis for this belief. The story appears to imply that what the scribes taught could not be true and was not true. But, as Schweitzer (1925) pointed out, Jesus had no notion of impeaching the Pharisaic dogma. What the scribes taught was correct: only they themselves could not explain how the Messiah could be both the inferior and the superior of David, both Son of David and supernatural. But Jesus could explain it, although it seems that he did not do so. The Messiah is David’s son because he is born a human being, a linear descendant of the great king* and lives in obscurity; David’s Lord because, subsequently, he will be revealed as the Messiah. Of necessity it must be Messiah-ben-Joseph who is David’s son and Messiah-ben-David who is his Lord. If the same person played both parts, then he was both David’s son and his Lord. Schweitzer drew attention to the fact that, while the Psalms (of Solomon) and the apocalypses of Baruch and Ezra knew only of the Messiah, the books of Daniel and Enoch knew only of the Son of Man. But Jesus, as Mowinckel has noted, combined the thought of the suffering, dying and exalted Servant of the Lord (the Messiah) with that of the Son of Man who will come again on the clouds of heaven. Powell, commenting on the equivalent verses in Matthew (Matt. 22:41–46), thought that Jesus took the opportunity to prove that the Messiah cannot be the son of David. * We do not know that Jesus ever claimed such direct descent, although Tabor was convinced that it was true. If Jesus believed this, then that may have been the main stimulus for his mission. Who did he think he was? 117 Perhaps Jesus was the first person to make this combination; perhaps he inherited it as a Nazarene doctrine. Perhaps the parallel concepts led Jesus to believe that the Messiah might first have to go through existence as a man. Schweitzer (1968) wrote, ‘he may have found hidden in this strange expression for the Messiah the secret that the expected supernatural Messiah must also be born as a son of man’. Jesus saw himself as a man in whom this being had to undergo a completely human existence before beginning his reign in the kingdom. Borsch believed that the verse implied two Messiahs, one in heaven, David’s Lord and one on Earth, his son. These two Messiahs could not be one and the same person and so Borsch’s proposal does not go far enough in revealing Jesus’ explanation for the conundrum. But if Jesus believed that he was one Messiah, David’s son and that he could become another Messiah, David’s Lord, there is a completely satisfying explanation. But Jesus could not have revealed this explanation, it was another Nazarene secret, a pearl to be kept away from swine (Matt. 7:6). Vawter had no ‘overriding objection’ to the proposition that Jesus thought of himself as the Coming Son of Man as well as identifying himself in some fashion with an existing and acting Son of Man. However he failed to develop this idea, to see that Jesus, while living the life of one Messiah, one Son of Man, looked forward to living the life of a second Messiah, the second Son of Man. Some people aspire to greatness, to becoming a heroic figure. Jesus planned to become two heroic figures rolled into one. Was Jesus sane? The AV of Mark 3:21 tells us that, on one occasion, Jesus’ ‘friends’ considered that he was ‘beside himself ’ and this has been interpreted to mean that they thought he was insane. Indeed, the NEB translates it as ‘out of his mind’. Sanders (1993:153) believed that the verse is a remnant of a once larger body of material that depicted Jesus as engaging in erratic behaviour as an exorcist. The word used in the Greek text, existemi, in its intransitive form, appears several times in the New Testament. Usually it means ‘aston- 5 Commitment 118 ished’, ‘astounded’ or ‘amazed’, but it can also mean ‘confounded’, ‘confused’ or ‘perplexed’. In one case (II Cor. 5:13) it does appear to mean ‘of unsound mind’ or ‘not in one’s right mind’, although that interpretation is inferred from the context. There is nothing in the context of Mark 3:21 to force an interpretation that Jesus was thought insane. Verses 20 and 21* are an isolated vignette in which Jesus is besieged and isolated by a crowd in a house and has to be rescued by his friends. The circumstances may have caused him to be amazed, even perplexed, but not insane. It seems likely that, trapped in a crush and separated from his friends, he was beside himself with hysteria. The incident is unrelated to Jesus’ general purpose and actions and can have no bearing on the question of his sanity. Early this century, when psychology and psychiatry were the latest tools of medicine, some tried to show that Jesus was indeed suffering from a mental illness. To most, Jesus seemed to suffer from paranoia, a psychosis whose symptoms are systematic delusions. If Jesus believed that he was the Messiah, the question that arises is whether this delusion was the product of an illness or whether it was a justifiable product of the zealous fanaticism of the Nazarenes. Jesus’ belief was based on a generally accepted eschatological scenario. If his delusion was caused by paranoia†, then many others around him must have suffered from the disease. When a whole society shares a collective delusion, as did the Jews concerning their god and the expected kingdom, it cannot be due to mental illness. Belief in superstition is not a certifiable condition and Jesus was no less sane than any other Jew. Schweitzer (1948) observed that Jesus’ religious ideas, like those of his contemporaries, while they seem strange to us, may not be considered as diseased. Craveri noted Binet-Sanglé’s idea that Jesus was a ‘theomaniac’, encouraged by his parents’ devoutness. It is arguable that, on this basis, all Jews were theomaniacs; the whole nation was devout and intensely zealous for its faith. Besides, nothing certain is known of Jesus’ parents. Certainly Jesus could not have been mad enough to claim that he was God. Anyone claiming this would have been killed. Indeed, according to John 8:59; 10:31, priests tried to stone Jesus when * The AV has a part of verse 20 attached to the end of verse 19. † True paranoia is a rather rare disorder. Was Jesus sane? 119 they believed that he claimed equality with God. William Hirsch considered Jesus’ case to be one of gradually evolving megalomania (Schweitzer 1948). Here again, if it were allowed that Jesus’ self-esteem was excessive and that his grandiose scheme was out of touch with the general stream of Jewish life, then his condition might be regarded as megalomania. However, given that he had reason to consider himself to be the Messiah and that he belonged to a sect that taught him to believe in the imminent realization of all Jewish aspirations, even to the extent that, as Messiah, he would rule the world, it is not surprising that he held a high opinion of himself. He may have been mistaken in his beliefs, but it does not follow that he was insane. Schweitzer (1948) concluded that those who believed that Jesus’ state was one characteristic of a mental disease used unhistorical material, misunderstood the historical situation and Jesus’ purpose, and diagnosed incorrectly. Moreover the verifiable symptoms fell short of mental illness. In short, psychiatry was being called upon to explain the gospel, a story that did not make sense. While these writers failed to comprehend Jesus’ motives and mission, they were bound to conclude that the only explanation for his conduct was a mental disease. Holl wrote that we are not required to argue from Jesus’ outsider position, a stance he gave to Jesus, to a disturbed mind and Guignebert (1935) rejected the view that Jesus was ‘definitely unbalanced’; ‘if he was, we do not, and cannot, know it’. That Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah was not the result of any mental illness. It was the result of the intense conditioning he had undergone, not just as Jew living in first century Palestine, but as a disciple of and successor to John the Nazarene. His delusions had been brought about by circumstances beyond his control and he was a victim of those circumstances. What was Jesus’ strategy? Having seen the influences that shaped their thinking, we can now ask what plan of action was formulated by the Nazarenes. What was their Messianic strategy? After the trauma of the Baptism and the conviction that he was the Messiah, what did Jesus intend to do? How did he 5 Commitment 120 plan to bring about the full scenario revealed to him by Scripture and especially as it was interpreted by the Nazarenes? Many probably agree with Wilson, who concluded that we can never hope to reconstruct Jesus’ motives for behaving as he did in the last week of his life, and that Jesus’ thought was unsystematic, lacking a coherent metaphysic. I shall show that this view is mistaken. The Nazarenes must have believed that Jesus had to die in 33. Moreover they must have believed that another Messiah would appear immediately thereafter to replace Jesus. They probably believed, like Jesus, that the second glorious Messiah would be Jesus resurrected. But was Jesus prepared to accept death in the belief that God would resurrect him to the throne of Israel? Murry believed that Jesus expected to be transformed into the Messiah before he succumbed to death. However Jesus must have believed that this transformation could only come about through resurrection. If the first Messiah was to die and become the second, then resurrection was the only process known to Pharisees that could accomplish this miracle. Therefore his own resurrection was an essential component of Jesus’ programme. But did he expect God to perform this action? This vital question must be examined in the light of Pharisaic philosophy. The question of predestination, the notion that future events are already determined by God or fate, is one that has exercised philosophers throughout history. Are one’s actions one’s own or are they bound to fall as they do? Can one determine the future by choice in the present? Is there any real choice? We have seen that, in Jesus’ day, the three main parties held different views on this question and that Jesus was a Pharisee. Consequently Jesus must have adhered to the beliefs of the Pharisees concerning fate (see chapter 4). These beliefs were so complicated that even Josephus had difficulty explaining them. Pharisees believed that, although every event is predetermined by God, some actions are in the hands of mankind, but only so that what men do turns out to be what God ordained in the first place. Men can act as they wish, but the consequences will be according to the divine plan. There seems to be little difference between this view and that of the Essenes (that everything is predetermined). However, while the Essenes resigned themselves to whatever fate brought, the Pharisees thought that they had some hand What was Jesus’ strategy? 121 in the matter. In fact it may be that they thought it necessary for mankind to act consciously to bring about what was already determined. If this was not the view of mainstream Pharisaism, it could have been the belief of minority groups such as the Nazarenes. It will become clear that this was indeed Jesus’ belief. Jesus often spoke of the need for action in carrying out God’s will. He claimed that only those who did the will of God would enter the kingdom (Matt. 7:21) and that God’s will had to be done on Earth as it was in heaven (Matt. 6:10). He said, ‘my food is that I may do the will of the one who sent me and may finish his work’ (John 4:34) and ‘the Son can do nothing of himself except what he sees the Father doing; for whatever things he does, these also the Son does likewise’ (John 5:19). This must mean that Jesus acted to bring about the will of God as he saw it written in the Scriptures. Whatever he saw written there, he tried to bring about on Earth. He saw the Father’s action in the Scriptures and simply followed suit. He said, ‘i always do that which pleases him’ (John 8:29), for ‘the Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35). In fact his actions were his identification; he said, ‘if I do not the works of my father, do not believe me’ (John 10:37). He went on to plead for belief in the works, if not in himself. In other words, he was more concerned that his followers should see the word of God coming true than that they should see him as the Messiah. The fulfilment of Scripture was more vital than the recognition of his person. Therefore his mission was to act as God’s instrument, to make events turn out as forecast. He was the executor of God’s will, turning the words into action and holding the rather contradictory view that, while all events turn out according to fate (the divine plan), individual human action is necessary to achieve fulfilment. He must have believed that it was necessary for him to arrange to fulfil the Scriptures. I will demonstrate that he did indeed arrange his career so that it complied with Scripture. Most biblical scholars suggest that the evangelists created traditions about Jesus that made him, unconsciously, fulfil prophecy. They appear to have overlooked the more likely possibility that Jesus himself arranged events in conscious fulfilment of prophecy. Baigent recognised that Jesus deliberately played out the role of Messiah (2006:117). 5 Commitment 122 All through his ministry Jesus insisted that Scripture must be fulfilled. When he was in Gethsemane he restrained his followers saying, ‘how then could the scriptures be fulfilled, which say that this must be?' (Matt. 26:54, NEB); how would he be put to death as the plan required if his followers rescued him at this time?* The evangelist was nearer the truth than he realized when he pronounced that ‘all these things were done that the Scripture of the prophets might be fulfilled’ (Matt. 26:56); Jesus arranged events so that they fulfilled the prophecies. Many times he took great trouble to explain the prophecies so that his disciples would understand how all that happened had to happen. He was fatalistic; if it was written, then he was convinced that it must occur, even if he himself had to make it occur. He trusted the authority of Scripture absolutely and could not have believed that it contained errors or that it was not inspired by God. He was sure that God had ensured its reliability. Jesus lived a Messianic life only because he arranged it that way. Pharisaic philosophy led him to conclude that, while God’s announced programme would be fulfilled, it would not be fulfilled without human action. In particular, that part of the programme that centred on the Messiah would not be accomplished without strenuous action by the Messiah himself. He could not relax and expect the programme to fulfil itself. If it appears that Jesus went meekly, albeit fearfully, to his death, it was not because he was an inherently meek person; it was because he knew that he had to die. If Scripture declared that the Messiah must die, there was no point in resisting fate; indeed fate required his co-operation. His life displays a fascinating attempt to turn fiction into fact. Jesus took the mythical figure of the Messiah and tried to live out a dream; the word really had become flesh. So it was that from the Baptism Jesus planned to be taken in Jerusalem and killed. But he broke the news gradually to his disciples and merely hinted that there was a test ahead. ‘Are you able to drink from my cup …?' he asked the sons of Zebedee when their mother asked privileges for them in the kingdom (Matt. 20:22). Later he told them plainly that he ‘must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be * Powell misunderstood this as a claim that Scripture forecast divine protection. What was Jesus’ strategy? 123 raised on the third day’ (Matt. 16:21). The disbelief and opposition of the disciples only convinced him of Satanic resistance to this divine mission. This recorded reaction is evidence that Jesus really did make this forecast and that it is not a post-eventum prophecy inserted by the evangelist. But why did Jesus claim that he would rise from the dead ‘on the third day’? Why not wait the seven years to the end of the age and the general resurrection? We shall see how vital it was that Jesus should rise quickly after his ‘death’ as Messiah ben Joseph. Meanwhile we can only note that there is scriptural support for the notion that resurrection of the Messiah within three days was forecast. He could have understood that God had promised that his ‘holy one’ would not suffer corruption, nor would he be left in Hades (Ps. 16:10). Also he could have understood that the words of Hosea applied to the Messiah; ‘after two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him’ (Hos. 6:2). In those days it was believed that the soul remained near a body for three days before departing for the underworld. Therefore a revival on the third day ensured that the soul did not leave the body and that the person who died could be resurrected in the same body. If Jesus wanted to be resurrected in the same body, he had to achieve it within three days. Note that ‘after two days’ must also mean ‘after three nights’, a matter that, according to Matthew, Jesus clarified. He prophesied that, as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster (Jonah 1:17), so he would be entombed for the same period of time (Matt. 12:40). He saw Jonah as an archetype for this operation. Probably because he found neither the means nor the motive, Cohn thought it improbable that Jesus prophesied his death and resurrection. Kamelsky thought that, having uttered such prophecies, Jesus had to make them come true if he was not to be indicted as a false prophet. Sanders (1993:167), exhibiting no curiosity about the number of days and nights, rejected the idea that Jesus referred to Jonah as a sign of his own death and resurrection. In fact it seems that Jesus was never forced to act by circumstances beyond his control. He made these fateful prophecies because he was convinced that such events were already inscribed in the record of the 5 Commitment 124 world. He had to make them come true because he thought that God expected him to assist fate to fulfil itself. Jesus must have wondered how he would die and for what cause. As will become clear later, the Nazarenes probably concluded that only a specific form of death in specific circumstances would fulfil Scripture. They could not afford to have Jesus killed at random by an assassin or by a mob. Jesus once fled from a mob intent on killing him (John 10:31). It must have been concluded that, although Messiah-ben- Joseph lived in relative obscurity, his death would need to be public, the more so if it was to lead directly to the appearance of Messiah-ben- David. In fact it would need to be a public execution. If the Nazarenes were convinced that Jesus would become the second Messiah in the same body, there was only one form of execution that offered any hope of success and that was crucifixion. Jewish methods of execution, such as stoning or strangulation, offered little hope of recovery. However crucifixion was in general use by the Romans and Rome ruled Judaea. Since Rome also ruled most of the known world it may have seemed fitting that the future ruler of the world should be executed by the then ruler of the world, Caesar. After all, Jesus expected to replace Caesar. Vickers listed several cases of revival after crucifixion, including Sandotes (Herodotus 7:194), a friend of Josephus (Life 75) and the French Convulsionaires of the eighteenth century. Jesus might even have found scriptural support for the belief that he must be crucified. The Psalmist wrote ‘they counted all my bones, and they observed and looked upon me’ (Ps. 22:17a, LXX). Strauss thought that this referred to a chase or combat with wild beasts, but modern Christians see it as a forecast of crucifixion. Then Zechariah seems to speak of the Messiah being ‘pierced’ (Zech. 12:10). So while it is possible that the evangelists could have interpolated Jesus’ prophecy that he would be crucified (Matt. 20:19), it is not impossible that Jesus himself made this pronouncement. If Jesus planned to be crucified, he may have announced it. According to John, the Jews claimed that it was unlawful for them to put a man to death (John 18:31), but there has been much dispute as to whether or not this was true. It has been argued that the ‘supreme power’ given to Judaea’s first governor (Josephus, Antiq. 18:1:1) included the death penalty. Some claim that the Sanhedrin lost the right What was Jesus’ strategy? 125 to pass sentence of death in 30 (Stauffer; Klausner 1925). But Winter asserted that only political offences were tried by the governor. Graves and Podro believed that, although the Sanhedrin had the power to pass the death penalty, political cases had to be referred to the procurator (prefect). Cohn claimed that the Sanhedrin always retained the power of death over Jews and that the statement in John is untrue. Evidently we do not know the truth of this matter and we must speculate. It may be that the Romans reserved the death penalty to themselves, not only to maintain their authority and to restrict Jewish power, but also to enable their governor to try and interrogate prisoners. Interrogation was essential for full intelligence of Jewish resistance. Jesus would have known the law relating to the death penalty and whether or not he had to be arrested and tried by Romans. Certainly he would know that, if he was to be crucified, it had to be by Rome. Cohn argued strongly that the Sanhedrin would never hand over a condemned Jewish prisoner to the Roman governor; he would have been dealt with according to Jewish law. If this is true, it was most important that Jesus avoided arrest by the Jews. He once escaped a crowd who sought to arrest him (John 10:39). Brandon was sure that Jesus foresaw that his mission was such that it could or would embroil him with the Romans and result in his dying the death they inflicted on rebels. This implies that Jesus would have liked to avoid such an outcome. But Brandon did not consider the possibility that Jesus wanted such an outcome. Jesus wanted to be crucified and knew that to achieve this he had to put himself directly into the hands of the Romans. Not only must Jesus fall into Roman hands, he must make it possible for this to occur. His popularity made it difficult even for the chief priests and scribes to capture him (Luke 20:19). How much more difficult would it be for the Romans? He would have to go out of his way to facilitate arrest by the Roman authorities, to make it easy for them to arrest him. In fact he would practically have to surrender to them and in secret, away from the crowds. Furthermore he would have to give them proper cause for the arrest and see that it occurred at a time consistent with Daniel’s prophecy. The Messiah must die, but only at the proper time and in the proper manner. 5 Commitment 126 Jesus understood that, if he did nothing and allowed events to take their natural course, the Scriptures would remain unfulfilled. But he also understood that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. While all events were foreordained, yet must men labour to bring them about. So Jesus struggles through his ministry, pulling together the threads of God’s great tapestry. He is compelled to produce events that fulfil the prophecies, to live the life (apparently) forecast for the Messiah. He was living at the hinge of history. Soon the world stage would revolve and reveal that other world hidden since the Creation and prepared for the righteous. He had little time left to accomplish the mission on which he believed he had been sent. Before the revolution, the king must die. Many have attempted to discover Jesus’ strategy. Klausner (1925) thought that Jesus’ one idea was to implant within his nation the idea of the coming of the Messiah and, by repentance and good works, hasten the end. Guignebert (1935) also was mistaken in his beliefs that Jesus expected a crowning miracle entirely discounting human obstacle or danger and that Jesus did not expect or plan to die. More penetrating was Reimarus, who noted that Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom betrayed his intention to awaken interest in a worldly Messiah, a deliverer, and that this message would have been understood in the light of contemporary eschatological belief. He wrote, ‘he could have had no other object than to rouse the Jews in all parts of Judaea, who had so long been groaning under the Roman yoke, and so long been preparing for the hoped-for deliverance, and to induce them to flock to Jerusalem’. In Reimarus’ opinion, it was clearly the intention of Jesus, not to suffer and to die, but to build up a worldly kingdom and to deliver the Israelites from bondage. We have seen that, although this was Jesus’ intention, he first had to suffer and to ‘die’. Schweitzer (1925) could also claim some insight into the mind of Jesus. To him, Jesus went through a phase of believing that the kingdom only had to be preached for it to appear. As evidence he cited the sending of the Twelve out to the towns of Judaea with the prediction that ‘you will by no means complete the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes’ (Matt. 10:23). When the kingdom failed to appear and the disciples were not persecuted as predicted, Jesus changed his strategy to one requiring his personal sacrifice; instead of all Israel suffering be- What was Jesus’ strategy? 127 fore the kingdom could appear, he alone would suffer, ‘a ransom for many’. This realization, together with the news of John’s death, which he took as a foretaste of his own, changed Jesus’ mind. Jesus realized that he himself must make atonement, give his life for the kingdom; ‘elijah’ had died at the hand of Herod, but he must die at the hand of the even more powerful Roman authorities. What the suffering and repentance of all Israel could not accomplish, the death of the Messiah must. But he must be executed by the very ruler of the world himself or at least by his representative. Schweitzer pointed out that Jesus was faced with two problems. Why was his ‘elijah’ executed before the dawn of the Messianic age and why did the kingdom fail to appear despite the signs of the times? According to Schweitzer, Jesus’ answer was that God brings about the kingdom without a general affliction and instead required it to be borne solely by the Messiah. We have already seen that Jesus expected the ‘great tribulation’ to visit all Judaea within a few years of his ‘death’; later we shall see that Schweitzer’s understanding of this matter is flawed. On the matter of ransom (Mark 10:45), Vawter noted that it is ‘the price that must be paid to buy back the pledge, to recover the pawned object or to liberate slaves’. If Jesus did make such a remark, what did he want to liberate? It is naive to imagine, as did Vawter, that ‘the payment … has brought mankind out of the bondage of sin’; Jesus had no concern for mankind as a whole and several times made it plain that repentance of sin was quite sufficient to qualify for entrance to the kingdom. The ‘many’ could be the ‘many’ who would ‘come from the east and west’ to celebrate the kingdom (Matt. 8:11). This group consisted of those righteous dead thought by Jesus to be kept in the underworld, behind the ‘gates of Hades’ (Matt. 16:18). The price of their release was Jesus’ ‘death’. Schonfield (1965) exhibited an understanding that Jesus manipulated events and people to bring about the Messianic prophecies, as he interpreted them, fully aware that the only outcome could be his arrest and execution. But while Schonfield saw that there must have been a plot to produce this end, he saw no strategy behind it. Sanders considered the view that Jesus plotted his own death (1985:333). Robertson (1953) drew attention to the hints in Mark that there was an insurrection at the time of Jesus’ ‘bid for power’ (Mark 15:7). 5 Commitment 128 He noted the injunctions to exchange clothes for weapons (Luke 22:36) and the promise that all who leave their homes, families and land for Jesus’ sake should receive a hundredfold of each ‘now at this time’ (Mark 10:29–30). Such rash statements may be remnants of the original gospel, but Robertson’s interpretation is incorrect. Jesus’ death was not the result of a Nazarene attempt to seize Jerusalem. Winter concluded that the fact that Jesus lived on in history as Messiah proved that an important group among his adherents pursued political aims and assigned to the second advent a political significance. Kubitza wondered if Jesus wanted to be killed, but he failed to explore the implications of that good question. The resurrection drug Jesus wanted to be crucified, but he also wanted to be resurrected. Did he expect God to revive or resurrect him? Surely not; he could not tempt God by asking him to perform miracles. The self-sufficient Messiah must work alone. Not only did he have to arrange to be crucified, he had to arrange to be resurrected. How could he possibly do this? Surely it was impossible. Certainly it was impossible for a dead Messiah to come back to life. However if the Messiah was not really dead, then he could revive and ‘live again’. Was it possible to simulate death and, if so, would Jesus accept this method? Today there are many drugs that simulate death. One of those drugs or at least its source was available in Jesus’ time. Seeds of the opium poppy have been found at prehistoric sites and opium has been used as a medicine and depressant of the central nervous system at least since about 300 BC. The opium poppy (papaver somniferum) was well known to the ancient Greeks; both Homer and Dioscorides referred to the drug that was made from it. It was also known in ancient Mesopotamia, where it was called ‘lion fat’. It is believed that the original home of the wild opium poppy is the region around the Eastern Mediterranean and even today much opium is grown in Turkey. Consequently it is possible that Jesus could obtain this drug. Opium has often been taken diluted, as a tincture called laudanum. This produces a soporific effect. But opium can also be taken The resurrection drug 129 raw, when the effects simulate death. Opium consists of twenty alkaloids, including morphine (9%) and narcotine (5%), but its action is largely caused by morphine. A strong dose can produce opium poisoning, a condition that is not easily distinguished from those of alcohol, cerebral haemorrhage and several other morbid conditions. Even today physicians are aware that a strong dose of morphine can make a patient appear to be dead. A poisonous dose of opium taken by mouth produces, in ten to thirty minutes, the exact time depending upon the state of the stomach, some slight mental exhilaration combined with a quickening and strengthening of the pulse. There may also be some nausea and occasional vomiting. However this state is soon followed by dizziness, heaviness of the head, languor and drowsiness, and an irresistible urge to sleep. Sleep is quickly followed by a narcotic coma, from which the patient may not recover. On falling asleep, the patient experiences a pleasing euphoria with gradual loss of muscle power and diminished sensation; the pulse becomes slow and weak. The comatose patient has a cold, clammy skin, livid lips and ear tips and ‘pinpoint’ pupils. The heart’s action may be feeble, the pulse small, irregular and slow. But the principal action of morphine is upon respiration; it becomes slow, shallow and irregular until, in serious cases, it will cease altogether. Short of cessation, periods of a quarter to half-a-minute may elapse without any respiratory action at all. It appears that these effects were known in sixteenth century England, at least to William Shakespeare. His plays betray a knowledge of opium and its effects. In Othello (III:iii:331) he wrote of a ‘drowsy syrup’ made from the poppy. This may refer to laudanum, but in Romeo and Juliet (IV:i:94–107), written in 1595, he described, through the character of a friar, the effect of a drug that must have been opium: Take thou this vial, being then in bed, And this distilled liquor drink thou off: When, presently, through all thy veins shall run A cold and drowsy humour; for no pulse Shall keep his native progress, but surcease: No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou liv’st; The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade To palsy ashes; thy eye’s windows fall, 5 Commitment 130 Like death, when he shuts up the day of life; Each part, depriv’d of supple government, Shall, stiff and stark, and cold, appear like death: And in this borrow’d likeness of shrunk death Thou shalt continue two-and-forty hours, And then awake as from a pleasant sleep. The similarity between the effects of this ‘distilled liquor’ and those of morphine is striking. Juliet appeared to be dead and yet she was not dead. Furthermore it seems that the dose necessary to produce this miracle caused a coma lasting for forty-two hours, a period that includes two days and two nights, no matter when it starts. After three days and three nights the patient would be up and about again. There are signs in the Gospels that rare substances were available to the people associated with Jesus. Expensive spikenard ointment made from a rare Indian plant was used to anoint Jesus (John 12:3). Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took 100 pounds (30 kg) of myrrh and aloes to the tomb (John 19:39). Evidently the Nazarenes had access to various exotic substances. It can be presumed therefore that the Nazarenes could not only obtain opium but knew of its effects. But surely Jesus would not allow the use of this drug to pretend death. Would he be party to deception? The answer to that question depends on what Jesus and the Nazarenes understood of its operation. A superstitious people, ignorant of modern medicine must have regarded the effects as magical. Jews must have seen the hand of God in its effects. Jesus cannot have rejected a substance derived from a plant he thought God had created (Gen. 1:29). Furthermore Jesus may have thought that opium caused temporary death. The poppy has been a symbol of sleep and of the dead since antiquity. It may have been believed that opium had the curious property of producing a sample of the state of death. The comatose state was not known to the ancients. Consequently they must have interpreted it as a kind of death, but one from which recovery was possible. Although Shakespeare knew that it did not really cause death, the Jews may not have realized this. Therefore Jesus may have regarded opium as the perfect solution to his problem. It was the means by which he could fulfil the prophecies. Evidence that this was his under- The resurrection drug 131 standing can be seen in a curious episode recorded by John: The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–46). The historicity of this incident has been much disputed. Goguel (1933) thought that it was an accretion and did not even discuss it, while Craveri thought the whole story an allegorical myth. Murry believed that the event was a miracle deliberately invented by a religious genius and that Lazarus was an imaginary character in a parable. Hugh Anderson noted that most ‘modern’ scholars considered the account an ‘edifying legend’ (1967:101). Renan believed that the affair was not entirely legendary and that something really had happened at Bethany that was looked upon as a resurrection; ‘it may be that Lazarus, still pallid with disease, caused himself to be wrapped in bandages as if dead, and shut up in the tomb by his family’. He believed that Lazarus and his friends played a charade to ‘prove’ Jesus’ healing power and to fortify his faith in himself. Woolston (1727) also held that it was a pretended miracle; Lazarus contrived to be buried in the grave for four days so that Jesus might have the honour of appearing to raise him from the dead. He called it a ‘contexture of folly and fraud’. Strauss thought the account unhistorical and asked why it appears in the synoptic Gospels. In fact, according to Smith, it does not appear in the secret version of Mark (but see below). Strauss also asked why Jesus waited two whole days beyond Jordan. Delff supposed that Lazarus was buried in a state of trance and Vickers thought that the event was a Nazarene drama. Schweitzer (1954) believed that the story was invented after the time of the evangelists and Mackinnon noticed the inconsistencies in the story. Graves and Podro thought it unlikely to have been invented; according to them, Jesus did not return immediately because he thought Lazarus’ faith so strong that he could not die before the kingdom appeared. But, they assert, Lazarus did die and a later redactor invented the recovery, borrowing from Jesus’ own recovery. Stewart proposed that it was a necromantic rite that required a simulated burial and that it was misunderstood by those who saw it. Salibi concluded that John imported a story about ‘another Jesus’, an Arabian virginity god (1988:165). Helms (1989:94f), who believed that all miracle stories are simply updated versions of Old Testament tales, claimed that the story derived from Elijah-Elisha stories about the resurrection of a dead son: he equates the story with the Synoptic stories 5 Commitment 132 about Jairus’ daughter and the widow of Nain’s son. He accepted Smith’s view (Smith 1974) that the account in The Secret Gospel (Jesus resurrects a man from a tomb in Bethany after the man’s sister appeals to him) indicates that John or a previous writer based the account on an earlier, simpler version of the Synoptic account.* Helms even showed parallels between the story of Lazarus and the Egyptian myth of the resurrected Osiris. Wilson confused the story with that about the apostle John not dying (John 21:23) and thought that Lazarus was John and that the belief about him not dying arose from his ‘resurrection’ in Bethany. Vermes (2012:35) dismissed it and thought it evidence for the developing faith of early Christianity. Thiering argued that Lazarus was really Simon the Zealot, a magician. After being excommunicated by Herod Agrippa, by being dressed in grave clothes and placed in a cave tomb at Qumran before being sent away, he was released by Jesus when Antipas gained control. We cannot ignore the possibility that John’s account of the Lazarus affair is genuinely historical. Indeed there is evidence to support this view. If it is fiction, why was it invented? Why would an inventor show Jesus as reluctant to go to Lazarus, callous in his treatment of Martha and Mary, and suffering an emotional breakdown under the strain? Most critics are unable to explain the episode, nor can they explain why it might have been invented. If it is not explicable, it can hardly be an invention. John claims that this Lazarus and his sisters were very close to Jesus and that he loved them (John 11:5). This might indicate that Lazarus was a Nazarene or merely that Jesus and Lazarus were related to each other; it certainly tells us that Jesus could rely on their co-operation in whatever way he required. They lived at Bethany, a small village to the east of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho where Jesus later arranged for the processional ass to be kept. It seems that Jesus and his disciples had fled from Jerusalem for fear of stoning and had sought refuge beyond the Jordan where John had baptized. In order to reach this place of retreat they would have had to pass through Bethany. It is therefore inconceivable that Jesus * Thiede cast doubt on the authenticity of Smith’s Secret Gospel. The resurrection drug 133 did not call on Lazarus and his sisters before continuing towards the Jordan. When the sisters sent word that Lazarus was dying, Jesus did not go at once to Bethany. This is strange. On every other occasion, he had either started out at once for the sufferer or he had pronounced a cure from where he was. In this case he did neither of those things. It appears that he was not surprised at the news and he remained where he was for two whole days. Assuming that it took one day to travel from Bethany to beyond the Jordan, it was the third day when he set out on the return journey and Lazarus had been entombed for four days or parts of a day. Moreover he had been entombed for three nights and Jesus brought him out on the third day. This timetable is identical to that which Jesus announced for his own entombment and resurrection. It suggests that the affair was a rehearsal for his own ordeal. While the idea of collusion with Lazarus has often been dismissed, it remains a serious possibility. Indeed it offers the only rational explanation for the episode. For what reason would Jesus wait two days? Surely to allow time for Lazarus to be entombed and emerge on the third day. As it was, the delay appears unnecessary and cruel to the sisters; he must have had very good reason to risk jeopardizing his relationship with them. As it was, Martha rebuked him for not being around when he was needed (John 11:21). If Jesus had decided upon the use of opium as the means of achieving resurrection, he may have wanted to test it. Perhaps he was unfamiliar with it and wanted to be certain that it worked; he was on a divine mission and could not risk failure. It seems that Lazarus was so devoted to Jesus that he was prepared to try out the drug on himself. Lazarus was entombed because he had swallowed opium at Jesus’ request. They had the opportunity to arrange this when Jesus passed through Bethany. When Jesus received word of Lazarus’ ‘death’, he made no move, not only because he did not want to return until the effects of the drug wore off, but because he believed that Lazarus was in no danger. He told his disciples that it would not lead to death and that Lazarus was asleep. On the other hand, he declared that Lazarus was dead. These conflicting statements can only be explained by supposing that Jesus knew that Lazarus had taken opium. Jesus thought that Lazarus was 5 Commitment 134 dead, but that it was not normal death; it was a kind of sleep-death from which he would awake. Indeed, he told his disciples that Lazarus would recover. When he approached the tomb, Jesus displayed great emotion. He wept and groaned in the manner of a mourner and was almost overcome with grief. This account is unique in attributing such emotion to Jesus and it is hard to explain if Jesus knew that Lazarus would recover. If he wished it to be known that Lazarus would recover, why did he not remain calm and confident? One conclusion may be that his demonstration of emotion was artificial, that he made it to impress upon the crowd the idea that Lazarus really was dead. His remarks in front of the tomb support this notion. After a public prayer, thanking God (for what?), he muttered under his breath that he knew all the time that God had heard him and only said this to convince the onlookers that he was sent by God. Why should he need to act in order to convince the crowd that he was the Chosen One? It is all out of character, and yet, if it is out of character, how could anyone have invented it? Why would anyone invent an uncharacteristic Jesus? It appears that Jesus stage-managed the whole affair and was, even as the tomb was being opened, putting the final touches to his act. He was most concerned when the tomb was opened. Indeed, he had cause to be. It was the moment of truth. If Lazarus had died, the smell of death, referred to by Martha, would have been detectable at once. Only when the door was opened and there was no smell did Jesus know that the drug had succeeded. Only then did he thank God and call out to Lazarus. One reason for a public declaration that the revival of Lazarus was the result of divine intervention was Jesus’ refusal to use the powers he believed the Messiah possessed. If he was forbidden to test God, he was certainly forbidden to try to resurrect anyone. Jesus made it clear that God had raised Lazarus. In fact Lazarus was never dead, merely comatose. According to John, it was this event more than any other that caused the chief priests and the ‘pharisees’ (scribes?) to seek Jesus’ removal. Schonfield (1965) suggested that this ‘miracle’ was probably ‘the last straw’ as far as the Sanhedrin was concerned. Although I doubt that this was the reason for raising Lazarus, the affair did succeed in angering the Sanhedrin sufficiently to want Jesus removed. To fulfil his The resurrection drug 135 mission, Jesus did need to provide the Romans with cause to arrest him. However, it did him no good to anger the Sanhedrin and the Romans can hardly have wanted to execute him for raising someone from the dead. In more senses that one, ‘religion is the opium of the people’, for without the use of opium Christianity could never have arisen. It was not Yahveh who gave birth to Christianity, it was Morpheus the god of dreams. 5 Commitment 136

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References

Abstract

What really happened to Jesus? Did he rise from the dead, and if not why do Christians believe that he did? Did he have a plan and, if so, what was it? Did he accomplish his purpose or did the plan fail? If it failed, what were the consequences?

Steuart Campbell, once a Christian, takes a rationalist look at the problem of Christian origins and shows that no previous writer has completely solved the riddle of Jesus. Here he shows us a new hypothesis, one that explains Jesus‘ curious behaviour.

Here is Jesus in historical context, the leader of an obscure Jewish sect which believed that it was fulfilling a divine plan revealed in the Scriptures. This plan required the Messiah to die and rise again to become the king of Israel, throwing the Romans out of Judaea and even replacing the Emperor as ruler of the known world. Read how Jesus expected to accomplish this.

The author displays immense knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Jews and he explains many mysteries. He builds on the work of many other authors and constructs what is surely the true explanation for the origin of Christianity. This should be the last word on the historical Jesus. It is certainly an excellent review of the many attempts to solve the mystery.