Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Must Read: Zealot, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

The Bible - more fiction than many want to admit

One of the books I am reading on the trip is Reza Aslam's  book, "Zealot, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."  For anyone who loves history and, perhaps more importantly, seeks to know the truth about Christianity, the book is a must read (I am about 3/4 through the book).  It is easy to see why the professional Christian set and Christian fundamentalists have been horrified by the book and condemned it: it basically blows apart their entire version  of Christianity and underscore how many portions of the New Testament are not historically correct and demonstrates over time how the Church fathers changed the facts to fit their agenda.  

These rewritings range from the conscious effort to distance the new faith from Judaism in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the vengeance of Rome against to shifting the blame for Jesus' execution to the chief priests of the Jewish Temple rather than Rome in the person of Pontius Pilate who in fact had ordered the crucifixion of thousands of Jewish "trouble makers" who challenged Rome's authority in word and deed.  

The other stunning revelation that I never before fully understood is the fact that St. Paul was deemed a heretic and teacher of untruths by the original apostles, particular James, the brother of Jesus (who was diminished over time by the Church because his very existence blows to Hell the Church's myth of Mary as "the ever virgin").  What Paul concocted - and three times was reprimanded for by James and the other apostles based in Jerusalem - and which largely became what is now accepted Christian belief, bore little resemblance to what was being preached by the original apostles and Jesus' acknowledged brother and true successor as leader. Ironically, what allowed the transformation started by Paul to flourish was the fact that when Rome wiped out Jerusalem and all of its inhabitants in 70 A.D., the mother assembly and the surviving remnants of most of the original apostles and their closest followers were wiped out as well.

The overall take away?  The true nature of Jesus - if he indeed existed - and what he and his immediate direct successors taught bears little resemblance to what passes for accepted Christian belief nowadays.   


Eric Linder said...

Mr. Hamar--

First, enjoy every minute of your deserved vacation, esp. the Greek isles. Wow. Backpacked around Greece 40 yrs ago in my 20s, and have forgotten not a moment of the 6 weeks I was there.

To begin with, I have read your long and excruciating coming-out story on your blog, and as a gay man who is still a practicing Xian (episcopalian), feel nothing but sympathy for your long, lonely struggle. Pain is pain.

That said, I feel moved to respond to your enthusiasm for Mr. Reza's book, which I myself read last fall --at first with interest, and then with deeper and deeper reservations. He has every right to his own interpretation of the gospel accounts, but I am troubled and frustrated that he presents himself as a scholar of sorts in the field, when he is nothing of the sort. His claims are inconsistent (rather than noting real inconsistencies in the accounts!) or fabricated (James declares Paul heretical???). At times, he simply skips stuff he does not wish to deal with (the resurrection accounts, on which every other word of the NT depends) or makes wild hypotheses such as the following:"We know Jesus must have been illiterate, because nobody in rural Israel could read or write." This in a culture and religion which above all things placed emphasis on the written law and history of the nation in the face of Roman oppression! THAT last bit at least Reza gets. But not a great deal else.

So to see persons take him for some kind of expert, persons who in fact know the texts only superficially at best (I assume this does not include you because of a lifetime of exposure, however tormented, to them) and know absolutely NOTHING of responsible and open -minded scholarship about them....well...

All I can say is, take Reza with a large dose of salt.
All best you on your voyage and in your ongoing efforts to defend GLBT folk and others from cruelty or ignorance.

Eric Linder

Eric Linder said...

Mr. Hamar--

I am a complete idiot. I reversed the author's 1st and last names. I meant Aslan, not Reza, in my posted comments.