Jesus, No, but Joshua’s a Different Story

A Pagan Almanac for August 1 & 2, 2012

Lunar Cycle: August 1 — Fourth day of the full Moon
August 2 – Fifth day of the full Moon (astronomical full Moon)

Rome: August 1, Kalends, sacred to Juno

Athens: Hekatombaion 14
Hekatombaion 15, sacred to Selene

Martyred on August 1 in
1595: Volkart Dirxsen and his daughter, Utrecht
1623: Thomas Greave of Fife
1664: Josine Labynes, Heestert

They died in our name. Let us remember theirs.

William Blake wrote:
The Beggar’s Rags, fluttering in air,
Does to Rags the Heavens tear.

Happy Lughnasad!

I just love Star’s blogs. She is a serious and original thinker, and her blogs usually set me thinking too. Now, I certainly understand her saying, “I reject Jesus Christ!” A major problem with most churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church, is that they give him a very bad rep.

Growing up Catholic in the early 1950s, I (and most other Catholics) thought of him only as the Lord of Glory somewhere in the sky, or at least somewhere else, from where he certainly would never interfere with my life. We never even talked to him, only to his mother, a good Jewish girl. She could guilt-trip him, right? So when I needed to find a reliable source of spiritual strength in order save my life at 36, I needed to find a very different concept.

The official high-Christology concept of Jesus Christ seems pretty useless to me. And that concept has no historical basis. It is essentially a fantasy generated by Paul and his followers. I once dismissed the idea that Paul had invented a version of Christian faith different from Peter’s, but now, given the research by Jeffrey Buetz, I am fairly well convinced that is what happened. So what was Peter’s concept? He sincerely believed that he had seen his friend, Rabbi Joshua the Nazarene, after the Romans had murdered him. His belief is a historical fact; my doctoral studies convinced me that there is no other way to explain how the Way of the Nazarenes (their original name for it) got started. Whether Peter’s belief was actually true is an entirely different discussion. However, Peter’s experience is nowhere described in the gospel or Acts, and there were other versions of what happened. The first edition of John’s gospel apparently said, in its version of the legend of the empty tomb, that Mary was the only one who saw him. The Gospel of the Hebrews said that his brother James was the first. Paul knows the story about James, but ignores Mary. The witnesses, if that’s what they were, contradict one another. Also, the gospels do not say that the body they saw was the one that the Romans had tortured to death. Look at how that body appears and disappears in John 20. Like an eidetic image.

I am sure that Rabbi Joshua was a real person. The idea that he was only a myth ignores the evidence almost as much as the silly story that the disciples stole the body. He was an observant Jew, as were all the Nazarenes. He was a Rabbi of the House of Hillel. The great Hans Kueng spent the first hundred pages of his Christ Sein demonstrating that the ethics Joshua taught were precisely those of Hillel, whom he even quotes. His followers believed he was a “true prophet” inspired by God, that he was the son of Joseph, not a supernatural being, and that he was married to Mary, whom he nicknamed Magdala, meaning “magnificent” or perhaps “tower of strength.” Aside from the nickname (whose meaning was confirmed by Andrew Smith, son of my student John Smith in St. Rose, and their Rabbi), all that information is in the Gospel of Philip, which is the most profound of all the Nag Hammadi documents and is neither more nor less historically trustworthy than the four canonical gospels are. The actual faith community he inspired existed for centuries; the Church Fathers covered up that fact by giving that community many different names, as if they were tiny, separate little sects.

I have argued in a previous blog that the sexual pathology that has infected official Christianity since the first century is a heresy that arose among the Paulines. It is logically impossible for it to have been taught by Rabbi Joshua, who apparently believed in the sacredness of our sexuality, as I now interpret the evidence. What that means, guys, is that the life-affirming, pro-sexual teaching of the actual Rabbi Joshua IS compatible with the kinds of theologies most people in the Craft movement subscribe to. I explore that possibility very speculatively in my novel Goddess Murder (available as an e-book on Kindle, of course). If you forget everything the churches have said about him and read the Gospel According to Mark as a short novel (which it is) about a gifted faith healer, you may see that he’s actually a very interesting guy, and definitely a real human being. If he weren’t a real human being, there would be no point to the story, would there?

I think that, if he hadn’t been killed by the Romans, he would be remembered as one of the great Tannaim, the Rabbis whose sayings were collected in the Mishnah, the core document of the Talmud. His wit and insight are striking if what he said is translated in terms of what he meant into modern English. For example, “That you eat right does not give you the right to badmouth people.” Or “Don’t blame the women because you feel horny.” Or, “Take care of family first, then worry about God.” Despite the appalling antagonism and polemics, he is even quoted with approval in the Talmud, e.g., in Gittin, for saying, “The son and the daughter shall inherit equally.” Oh, gee, why wasn’t that included in the gospels? Couldn’t have been because of misogyny, could it?

The historical evidence is that the Nazarene community was absolutely egalitarian for many decades. One can see this also in the fact that Paul appointed women as administrators with the powers of a bishop (an office not invented until about the year 90) for some of the communities he founded. What’s more, Rabbi Joshua gave an explicit commandment that women should be ordained. It’s right there in Luke 10. Oh, you’ve never noticed? That’s because the Greek has been mistranslated. I will be doing a blog specifically about that issue in the near future.

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