Religion is no longer as popular as it was even up to the late twentieth century. Churches are no longer filled to capacity on Sundays. In Europe Churches and cathedrals are museum pieces for tourists. In Australia churches and monasteries are converted into apartments for gated communities. Vocations for priests and nuns have dwindled. Pope Francis is trying to make the church relevant to today’s world despite opposition from conservatives who are bent on propping up the old church.
Even if we find the church irrelevant in today’s world of science and technology and robotics and artificial intelligence, we don’t have to throw out the window the baby Jesus with the bathwater. We can still focus on the real person of Jesus to whom Christianity has done a great disservice by distorting his image.
Jesus was an enigma even to his followers. In his lifetime he was perceived differently by the people. Some called him the deliverer from all evil. Others said that he was the evil one, a magician and a satan worshipper. Others looked upon him as a holy man an even a Pharisee. When he healed the sick, they called him a miracle worker. The Zealots saw him as a liberator who will lead an army and overthrow the Romans and even as the expected Jewish Messiah. For the Temple authorities he was a deviant Jew. For the Kings and the Romans, he was a trouble- maker. His followers saw him as a teacher, a healer and a leader.
Soon after the crucifixion the immediate followers of Jesus were grappling with the different views of Jesus. There was no Christianity, no Church no bishops, no hierarchy, no structure, no canon and nobody with any authority. Nothing was yet in writing. There was an empirical vacuum.
The Gospel narrative came very much later written with a specific agenda to propagate and evangelize the Christ concept generated by Paul. Even after they were written they were not officially recognized as the canon (an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority like the pope. The Catholic church, the orthodox church, the episcopalian church, the Coptic church, the Ethiopian church all had their own canons) all during the second and third and fourth centuries.
The followers of Yeshua, his original Aramaic name, did not see him as the Christ which means the anointed one. There is no mention in the scriptures that Yeshua was ever anointed. Only kings and some prophets and priests were anointed and there were many christs, even Cyrus, the king of Persia was hailed as a christ who liberated the Jews from exile in Babylon.
Meanwhile, the different views of Yeshua became multiplied with each claiming that they had the right view or the orthodox view. The so-called Apostolic Fathers and the Church Fathers took it upon themselves to declare that they were right. They condemned views not in line with theirs as unorthodox or heretical. Heresy literally means choice of those who chose not to believe the ‘right’ beliefs.
The Christological controversy of whether Jesus was man or God or both, dragged on for centuries until Constantine the Roman Emperor converted to so-called Christianity and in the year 325 AD called and presided over the Council of Nicea. At this council the Creed or Credo, the “I believe” was set in stone once and for all what Christians ought to believe. Power and Dominance were established by Imperial Roman decree that Jesus was both Man and God. All other beliefs and doctrines were then systematically condemned and destroyed.
Whatever contrary views that appeared were quickly crushed. People were fearful of the dreaded Inquisition that tortured and beheaded or burnt at the stake those who held contrary views. Later this became intensified with the Protestant Reformation.
The foremost personality in the history of Western culture, is Jesus of Nazareth. The Godness of Yeshua or his divinity overshadows his humanity.
No one has dared to question the dual personality of Jesus seriously until the dawn of the twentieth century when Albert Schweitzer began the quest for the historical Jesus. This scholarly quest had developed in stages and the debate began raging on and intensified during the final decades of the last century.
Gustavo Gutierrez, the driving force of Liberation Theology, says that Yeshua has been ‘iconised’ when every action of Yeshua is interpreted in theological themes. His life is no longer a human life, submerged in history, but a theological life – an icon. Have we lost the historical Yeshua? he asks.
Yeshua walks among people living between poverty and destitution, besieged by malnutrition, physical impairment, disease and illness for which they know no remedy. They are also overburdened by taxation and debt while the rich and powerful live a different life. Yeshua addresses these issues with very practical solutions. He heals the sick and tells the people to protest unjust taxation and not to listen to all the teachings of the Temple incurring the wrath of the elite.
Despite post-modernism corruption, injustice, oppression and religious misguidance still reign supreme in today’s world.
For standing up against corruption, injustice and religious misguidance Yeshua is brought before Pontius Pilate who points to Yeshua and says to the crowd “Ecce Homo”, behold the man.
Throughout his short life, Yeshua touches on issues like taxation and debt, healing, and fundamental concepts of God, Energy, Righteousness, the Ten Commandments, the Promised Land, After Life, Mother Goddess, Mazdayasana, Buddhism, and The Messiah. Mythology and religion are intertwined.
When Yeshua is placed in such a context, issues become very controversial.
It is interesting to discern from what is written about him and what was not written about him from conjectural oral tradition and time-travel Yeshua, the man of his time to the man of our time.