Archive for April, 2012

Apostle Curiosities

Posted in Atheist, belief, Christianity, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , on April 22, 2012 by chouck017894

The word “apostle” is used to denote the alleged twelve followers whom Jesus is said to have chosen and sent forth to preach his message.  It should be noted that not one of these alleged historic persons has ever been verified by any public records or historians of that Roman Empire period.  The names of Jesus’ alleged apostles are listed here in alphabetical order.

Andrew, an apostle portrayed as brother of Simon “Peter,” was allegedly a disciple of John the Baptist and was the first one called by Jesus.  Jesus summoned the brothers, both portrayed as fishermen, to follow him and become “fishers of people.” (Mark 1:16 and Matthew 4:18-20)  Andrew is not as prominent in the New Testament as is “Peter,” but he was said to be present at the apocalyptic speech on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3-37), and he was portrayed as present at the division of bread miracle.

Bartholomew, is also said to be the same person mentioned later in Gospel as Nathanael who was said to have been active in Galilee.  Strangely, nothing is actually recorded about Bartholomew in the New Testament, and he is not mentioned at all in the gospel of John.  On the other hand, Nathanael is never mentioned in the synoptic Gospels.  Why this should have been a confusion of identity with these two names is never answered.  Both names are linked with Philip, however, and it for this reason that it has been suggested that they refer to the same person.  According to traditions, Bartholomew is said to have been a missionary to many countries, such as Egypt, Persia, India and Armenia.  By different accounts he suffered many martyrdoms, but the favored one is that he was flayed alive in Armenia—and thus he is considered the patron of tanners!

James, is the name given for two apostles.  James “the Greater” was a son of Zebedee, and his brother was John.  In Christian tradition James “the Greater” is presented as a strong spiritual teacher, and in this he resembles the enlightened centaur Chiron of Greek myth.  Tradition also has it that James “the Greater” later preached in Spain, but he returned to Judea where, c. 44, Herod Agrippa allegedly had him martyred by sword.  Like the others, he is considered to be a “saint,” and his feast is celebrated July 25, which, apparently by coincidence, is about the time when constellation Sagittarius rises into prominence in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere.  James and his brother John were called Boanerges by Jesus, which is an anagram reference to the Greek Cyclopes myth of Brontes and Arges, who represented thunder and lightning.  Thus in the book of Luke 9:54, the brothers, in the role of those cosmic fire elements, when Jesus is rebuked by sectarianism Mark (9:38-40) the brothers ask Jesus, “…wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”

James, “the Less,” is portrayed as the son of Alphaeus (or Cleopatra: no, not that Cleopatra), and is called the “Less” to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee.  In the befuddled writing style, this James could be mistaken for the brother of Jesus, but that is skirted by saying that this James was the son of Mary Cleophas, the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus, and therefore a cousin of Jesus.  Other scholars skirt the problem by insisting that the phrase “brother of the Lord” refers to a son of Joseph by a former marriage.  Still others say that he was the son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus.  Whatever his imagined connection, he is considered a “saint”; his feast is celebrated May 1.

John, presented as the younger brother of James “the Greater,” is portrayed as having been a disciple of John the Baptist, as was Andrew, but became an apostle of Jesus.  The brothers James and John were allegedly called Boanerges by Jesus, meaning “sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).  This nickname for the brothers given by Jesus seems questionable, for it is derived from the Greek myth of Creation in which two Cyclopes named Brontes and Arges are the personifications of thunder and lightning.  Wherever the name John is used in the NT, it is always a personification of light, which is why he is considered the most beloved of Jesus’ apostles.  John is credited with being the most active of the Apostles in organizing the Christian cult in Palestine and, later, throughout Asia Minor.  Tradition avers that Romans were persecuting Christians and that John was banished to Patmos, an island off the coast of Asia Minor where he allegedly wrote the book of Revelations.  The writing styles of the various texts attributed to John show the works to be by different authors, however.  Interestingly, the eagle is one of his several emblems, and the eagle happens to have been the Hebrew symbol for the constellation Scorpius.  “Saint” John’s feast is celebrated December 27.

Judas Iscariot is the most artificial of all the characters in Gospel.  Contradictions swirl around this character that make any serious thinker question the role he is alleged to have played.  Like bad storytelling, the motive for Judas’ behavior is not made clear, and there are differing points of whether he was only promised money or actually received money to betray Jesus.  Curiously, in the book of Mark the name of the traitor is never given (Mark 14:17-21).  And did Judas hang himself or did he die as a result of a fall?  Did he purchase a field with the “blood money,” or did he return the money and hang himself in disgrace and the priests used the money to buy the “Field of Blood” to bury him?  Both of these versions are offered.  As far as the faith merchants are concerned everything was all due to Satan’s influence (Luke 22:3), so all this is just inconsequential.  The elaborations regarding the role of Judas are too varied and details of his manner of death too unclear as presented by different authors.  A major point that the devout always sidestep is the fact that without Judas, Jesus could never have become Christ, for that could happen only through Jesus submitting to physical sacrifice demanded by his heavenly father.  Judas has had a long run as being portrayed as the enemy of Christ, but the story itself raises serious doubt about that, for without Judas the alleged purpose of Jesus’ brief time on Earth—the depraved demand that he must sacrifice himself in order to salvage the souls of man for the father could not have been fulfilled.  Does this sound like something an omniscient Creator would choose to resort to in order to “save” his prized creation?

Matthew, is honored as the author of the First Gospel although it is not the oldest text, and he is frequently said to be one and the same with Levi mentioned in Mark 2:14, and in Luke 5:27.  Why there should be such an inconsistency of identity among the apostles is never explained.  With the exception of the four lists of apostles that float around, or the mention of him in the books Mark and Luke, the character of Matthew is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament.  But this has not stopped the tradition that he actively preached in such places as Macedonia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Parthia.  The so-called First Gospel does not convey the familiarity that would come from an actual companion of Jesus, but seems more like an account based on another document.  But then the book of Matthew underwent revision sometime around the year 80, which possibly altered its content.  Whatever the reason, it has led some scholars to consider the First Gospel to be “according to Matthew” rather than to be by Matthew.  Nonetheless, most Christians accept the avowal that the book of Matthew is the most important of the four books of Gospel.  The feast in honor of this “saint” is celebrated September 21 (just preceding the Autumnal equinox).

Philip, from Bethsaida, was therefore a fellow townsman of the brothers Andrew and Simon “Peter,” and he was allegedly the fourth apostle chosen by Jesus.  This is probably one of the lesser known of the twelve apostles, his character being acknowledged principally as having been quick to appreciate the ministry of Jesus, but not particularly confident how his message could be utilized to solve man’s problems.  It is speculated that he had been a disciple of John the Baptist.  He is the only one of the apostles to have a Greek name.  The story goes that immediately after being called by Jesus he brought to Jesus his companion Nathaniel (who is elsewhere referred to as Bartholomew).  According to the book of John (12:20-22), it was to Philip that “certain Greeks came” asking to be admitted to the presence of Jesus.  Only in the book of John (6:5-9), is Philip presented as one of the two apostles named in the account of Jesus miraculously feeding 5000 persons.  Oddly, nothing more of Philip is followed in Gospel.

Simon “Peter”: Originally this character was presented as Simon (or as Simeon in Acts 15:12), but Jesus allegedly bestowed the name “Peter” upon him.  This possibly resulted from the Greek translation of an Aramaic word Cepha(s), meaning rock or stone.  Much more likely the name was drawn from the Latin word petra, which means “rock.”  (It was, after all, in Roman Empire times when the texts known as the New Testament were composed.)  Simon “Peter” and his brother Andrew are depicted as poor, uneducated working fishermen who did not own their own boat.  Association with Jesus apparently miraculously enlightened Simon to such an extent that he could pen at least two of the writings of the NT (the “letters of Peter”), and he often acted as the apostles’ spokesperson (as in Mark 8:29; 11:21; and 14:29).  Peter, the “rock”, is not favorably portrayed in Mark, especially in chapter 9:5-6, where he three times denied knowing Jesus.  Even so, it is Peter who allegedly was permitted to be the first to see the risen Jesus.  By the account given, however, it was Mary Magdalene who first encountered the risen Jesus.  This is brushed aside, for it was understood that the first to see the risen Jesus was supposed to head his church (to be established in Rome); thus typically  the female is belittled, and it is said that Peter was the first male to behold the blessed event.  To get around this controversial situation of Peter being favored, it was subsequently interpreted, supposedly by the self-proclaimed apostle Paul in shaping the corporate church, that Peter was meant to minister the Jews and Paul, who never knew Jesus personally, was delegated to convert gentiles.  This presents a sticky situation: in the timeframe of this story, Jews did not travel much outside their region of Palestine.  And yet the story goes that Peter apparently sought Jews in Rome, and supposedly instituted Jesus’ church there.  (See earlier blogs, Simon/Peter, Historical or Mythical, March 2012, and Christianity and the PTR Factor, March 2012.)

Thaddeus, or Judas Thaddeus, son of James, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.  Thus this may be the Judas referred to in John 14:22.  Further confusion as to who is who may be traced back to inferior manuscripts in which are listed the apostles as given in Mark and Matthew and a scribe mistakenly substituted the name Lebbaeus for Thaddeus.  This may also be when the identity of Levi also became mixed as Matthew.  The little that is known of the character Thaddeus came from the ecclesiastical “historian” named Eusebius of Caesarea (260?-340?), who was not above rewriting things to fit his objectives.  Also it was only Eusebius who asserted that the apostle Philip chose the Phrygian regions for his missionary work.  This is holy history?

Thomas has the distinction of being named in all lists of Jesus’ twelve apostles.  Peculiarly, he is presented as a major character only in the gospel of John, however, and his major scene is where he demands to see physical proof of Jesus’ crucifixion ordeal.  Confusion swirls around Thomas due to the fact that his name means “twin” in Aramaic, and this has led to speculation that he was the twin of Jesus!  (This speculation has much in common with the Greek story of the Zeus-sired Heracles and his mortal twin Iphicles.)  But all the twelve apostles are based on the twelve zodiac signs—just as were the twelve alleged tribes of Israelites and the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel. The authors of these lists that include Thomas referred to him as Judas Thomas or as Thomas Didymus, which was derived from the Greek word didymos, which was a direct reference to the Gemini twins of the zodiac.  In prehistory lessons which used constellation groupings to illustrate the lessons, the lessons of Gemini concerned Creation’s pre-physical energies involving as mental energy.  In the Romanized version taken from this, Thomas therefore personified the dual nature at work in Creation, and as such he symbolizes Creation’s concentrated, undivided genetic energy, or what might be termed hermaphroditic characteristics.  What the character of Thomas signifies, therefore, is that the norm of spirit is androgynous—spirit in equilibrium.

  • These brief biographical sketches offered here are based on New Testament storylines which were written in the Roman Empire era, and there exists absolutely no historical records which confirm that any of the alleged apostles ever existed.

Monotheism and Disguised Polytheism

Posted in Atheist, Bible, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, religion with tags , , , on April 17, 2012 by chouck017894

Monotheism, belief in a one-god creator, it could be argued, is not exactly the natural approach to understanding our individual relationship to the creative Source.  Such a belief system tends to ignore the fact that all things that make up Creation are directly interrelated, and by ignoring that fact naive seekers may thereby be inspired through crafty manipulation of their egos to become bigoted with a false claim of exclusivity.

The basic layout of the four parts of what would become Jewish scriptures has been confirmed as having been significantly blocked out from the late 8th century BCE.  Assyria destroyed the little kingdom of Israel to the north (722 BCE), and the threat of a similar fate was in the minds of the people of Judah.  Archeology has shown that regardless of biblical accounts, Israel and Judah were never sister kingdoms.  Jerusalem in this timeframe was a tiny village, but the cult-priests of Yahweh were located there and they were obsessed with making their temple the religious center of all the surrounding territory.  Polytheism, the belief that there were numerous gods, was common among the Hebrew people, but the priests in Jerusalem were determined to convert all tribespeople to Yahweh.  With the fall of the kingdom of Israel, Jerusalem burst forth in sudden expansion c. 720-718 BCE, and the village that had covered no more than ten or twelve acres rapidly mushroomed out of its narrow hill site to engulf the entire western hill, growing to 150 acres.  It was the “holy city” of Yahweh, but the new population was resistant to belief in a single god.

It was not until after the Captivity (537 BCE) that the priests of Yahweh managed to fully impose their concept of one god upon the disoriented returnees to Jerusalem.  The monotheistic concept issued out of a fanaticism of the Yahweh priesthood which sought social and political authority, not a desire to teach spiritual integrity.  The priesthoods’ fraudulent propaganda was that Israel’s suffering had always come about as punishment for the people turning their devotion to other gods. And with their fanatic contempt of neighboring people the monotheistic “faith” that the Yahweh priests offered actually sank morally lower than the polytheists who could recognize the interrelationship of all gods and all life.  And that unyielding attitude of the Yahweh priests was welded into Jewish credo, which insured a destiny of senseless conflicts for them with the many other cultures they met through subsequent centuries.

The early Jewish priests, like all typical cult administrators, never treated the people outside their control as worthy of any respect.  In that manner, the Jewish faith retained its tribalism and localism, and it was shored up even further with ego delusions of special status with the creator-god.  In other words, stimulation of ego was equated with spiritual quality—a perversion of spiritual understanding, which unfortunately now also stains Christianity and Islam.  Such spiritual haughtiness was seldom an indulgent sin of Pagan conduct.  And that self-serving spiritual understanding taught by the priests of Yahweh did nothing to improve the status of the feminine sex within that faith system.

Polytheism sees the creative source-power, which monotheism personifies as God, as a presence within everything, and not something that is given to a select few as special darlings of the Creator.  By its very nature polytheism thus encouraged religious tolerance, and respected the creative power’s law of diversity.  That refusal of the monotheist theory to respect the spiritual equality within all things amounts to spiritual greed, a serious indulgence in blasphemy.

The disguise of polytheism’s “lesser” gods is first seen in Genesis (16:18), the book of beginnings, when Abram’s concubine, Hagar, is fleeing the wrath of Abram’s wife Sari.  Hagar, alone and frightened and carrying Abram’s infant son Ishmael, is visited by an “angel” at a fountain of water in the wilderness.  (No one in this story has yet had their names changed, which indicates to those who know the code that this is story is set within the pre-physical planes of energy formation, so the prototypes are not yet defined [named] as matter.)  In that meeting the account is intentionally made indistinct with the lesser “angel” seemingly absorbed by the higher creative deity to convey the illusion that “angels” are simply an expression of god.  Clearly this is myth, not history, and it skirts very close to admitting that the higher creative presence is within all things.

Then in Genesis 19:18, Abram’s nephew, Lot, who lived in Sodom (primal energy plane), is said to have been visited by two angels, but strangely, the two are addressed singularly by Lot as “My Lord.”  This method of disguising the lesser gods of polytheism as “angels” was a convenient business tactic for installing a hierarchical priest-style faith system, and that tactic was carried over into Christianity and Islam.

In Judaism’s early traditions, the heavens were perceived as being administered by divine attendants or assistants of god.  By the time Deuteronomy (32:8) was written, angels were portrayed as god’s vice-regents and administrators in a hierarchical bureaucracy over the world.  How is this so different from polytheism where a variety of gods administered to different aspects of everyday life?  The primary difference, as the priests fashioned it, rested in personifying the creative Source as a prejudicial being who allegedly chose adherents of the priest-invented faith system to Yahweh above all else in Creation.

Angels as messengers of god were not so different from the Greek god Hermes who was characterized as the messenger and herald of the Olympian gods.  Angel Gabriel is thought of as an intermediary, an agent between persons or things, so he is in the same general category as messenger.  The warrior angel Michael, as another example, is not that far removed from the Roman god Mars.  The angelic hierarchy became increasingly explicit (as in Daniel 10:13; Ephesians 6:12; Jude 9; and 1 Peter 3:22), and archangels then came into the imagined heavenly lineup.

The minor gods of the polytheists were transformed by the holy word authors into the role of angels for monotheistic use, and that usage increased in later stages of Hebrew scriptures.   And that convenient tactic is found throughout the New Testament.  In the NT, however, angels more often deliver messages to humans (as in Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:11, 26:2-9;  Acts 8:26, 10:3).  When the angels appear to humans, they were generally described as descending from heaven as minor gods might do (as in Matthew 28:2; and John 1:51).  The next step was the suggestion that each person has his or her own protecting angel (as in Matthew 18:10; and Acts 12:15).

The history of monotheism as practiced by those pioneering priests of Yahweh does not support the claim that it made for a higher, more principled life.  The priests were fixated upon ceremonial laws, a maze of taboos, performances of animal sacrifice, and political maneuvering, none of which taught any moralizing or ethical concept of life, let alone teach any spiritual enlightenment.  Thus was lost the understanding that every “created” thing has its origin in the Source, which means that all things are interrelated and equal within that power.

Transition of Pre-Christian Jesus

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, Hebrew scripture, history, religion with tags , , , , on April 2, 2012 by chouck017894

Belief in a soon-to-come messiah was deep-seated among the Jews after the time of the Maccabean revolt (144 BCE), and the fervor of that belief virtually elevated that expected savior into a secondary god.  The Ethiopic book of Enoch,* for example, reveals that veneration saying, “Before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was called before the Lord of Spirits.”  In this glorification of the expected messiah there is found the influence of Babylonian myth.  And in this is also found the seed from which Christianity would evolve.  (*If you are unfamiliar with the book of Enoch, it is because it was one of many quasi-religious Jewish writings that were not included as part of Biblical canon because it did not contribute to the idea of church authority.  Consider the astronomy-zodiac inferences.)

The yearned for messiah was fashioned upon the legendary Israelite deliverer named Joshua (Jeschu), and Jewish literature such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastics, and Enoch reflect a background of centuries of polytheistic ideas among the tribal Hebrews.  Hellenism became an influencing factor upon tribal faith, causing mounting dissatisfaction with pure Judaism among the Jews after the Babylonian captivity (c.597 and 587/586 BCE), but before the destruction of the Temple (in August of 70 CE).   Ceremonial “laws” and endless taboos, sacrifices and superstitions provided individuals with little inspiration to act virtuously.  Almost in defiance there developed an association of Joshua/Jeschu with the Greek Logos, and that association as Son of God and messiah is present in the Pentateuch.  Thus the name Jesus, derived from Jeschu/Joshua, became revered among some factions of Judaism long before the appearance of Christianity.  This claim is strengthened in the fact that about a century before the death of Herod (44 CE), there is recorded the public execution of a man named Jesus and his body was hung upon a tree.  The name recorded was Jesus ben Pandira, and it was recorded in the reign of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus.

There are old documents which show that the early cult of Jesus, in rivalry with Judaism, was attracting converts among the Jews after the Babylonian captivity.  In the oldest documents of this cult the central feature was the eucharist–the sacrament in which bread and wine (or water) was consecrated, then consumed in memory of a revered deity (generally a deity that had been sacrificed).  This rite was common in many faith practices of the Mideast region, but was practiced in secret among the Jews who were becoming discontented with the futility of tribal ceremonial “laws.”  The point labored for here is that this places familiarity with the name Jesus as messiah nearly a century before the Roman authors of Mark and Matthew introduced the character of Jesus to the Roman public.  On the whole, however, those early writings were aimed primarily at those discontented Jews who already wanted a more moralizing and uplifting form of faith.

The original character of Jeschu/Joshua had several attributes that were always associated with Pagan sun gods—the alleged power of halting the course of the sun, for example.  But in the version by the Yahweh priests, Joshua was reduced to human status.  This sun god relationship is echoed in Christian scripture with Joshua’s namesake, Jesus, saying of himself, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12).  True of the light from the sun, the verse declares, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  It is from this sun god association that Christians proclaim their faith on Sunday, the day of the Sun.  (The day for holy observance among the Jew is Saturday, the day of Saturn.)

In 60 BCE, Jerusalem was captured by Rome; in 06 CE Judea was annexed by Rome; by 55 CE the proportion of Jews in the Empire was over twenty percent; by year 66 the constant antagonism of the Jews flamed into a rebellion.  That portion of the Roman Empire was a source of continuous friction.

When Octavian became sole master of the Roman world in 29 BCE, his empire had spread from Africa, Asia, Gaul, Spain and Dalmatia, so preserving order was vital for its continuance.  By the time that Emperor Augustus died in 39 CE, the Roman populace had become fascinated by the exotic character of cults and rituals such as Mithras (Persia), Isis (Egyptian), and Cybele (Phrygian).  The acceptance of these within Rome made for easier transitions with these conquered regions.  So the Jewish Jesus cult would not have gone unobserved by the Roman aristocrats and literati.  But the Empire still continued to be constantly troubled with Jewish haughtiness.  Thus, around 50-55 CE, as the more hardline Jews kept being fanned into periodic insurrections, a few Roman aristocrats and literati began to toy with the idea that it could be politically advantageous to cultivate that deviation of the Jesus cult within Jewish culture.  So, can it be simply coincidence that the first versions of Mark and Matthew happened to make their appearance in the Roman Empire in this same timeframe?

And isn’t it strange that later New Testament books appeared either during or shortly after other periods of conflict with the Jews?  There was war in Judea in 69, and Jerusalem fell in 70.  Perhaps it is coincidence that the revisions of Mark and Matthew came to pass between 70 and 80.  This was also the timeframe in which the destruction of the last three outposts of Jewish resistance, Machaerus, Herodian, and Masada occurred.  After another long siege in 79, Jerusalem was captured.  In the period following this, 84-90, a broader strategy was initiated to unite the diverse people of the Empire.  In this timeframe the books of Luke and Acts of the Apostles appeared, which connected the advance of the “gospel” from Jerusalem to Rome, and featured a converted Jew, Saul-Paul.  (Luke is referred to in Philemon 24 as Paul’s “fellow worker.”)  Both of these books bear the stamp of a two-person authorship.

Continuing acts of civil disobedience throughout Jewish population centers necessitated constant monitoring, and in this general timeframe, 94-100, the books 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians were written.  Also in this general timeframe the Pharisees declared that Italy, and especially Rome, was “unclean.” The composition of the book of Romans date c. 100;  2 Corinthians and the editing of Ephesians occurred c. 100-105; 1 Timothy and Titus c. 105-107; and Philemon c. 106-107.  The second great revolt by the Jews began c. 115, and one million Jews took over Alexandria, Egypt, and held it for nearly a year.  By 116 there were also uprisings in Parthia and other places.  2 Peter and 1, 2, and 3 John, and the book of Jude all date c. 110-115.

Another great Jewish revolt began in 131 under the leadership of Bar Cocheba, and the Roman troops sent to restore order suffered a surprising defeat.  Roman patience with Jewish spiritual obstinacy was running thin.  The violence of the rebellion in Jerusalem lasted for four years and was climaxed by the Emperor Hadrian having Jerusalem destroyed and forbidding any Jew from setting foot on the site.  Can it be coincidence that the book of Revelation was written c. 135-138, the period following the violent insurrection of the Jews?  Curiously, however, the last book to be written for the New Testament lineup was Hebrews, written c. 135-140.  It is in Hebrews 8:6-13 that there is found a “new covenant” for the Jewish people.  Even at that late date the Roman rule was not out to destroy Jewish culture: they sought only to soften the Jewish obsessive pretense of spiritual elitism.