There are Twitter accounts, wherein people are invited to be a flies-on-the-wall and subsequently register their approval or disapproval of the author's personal postings and there are FaceBook accounts, wherein one creates a profile with which to introduce oneself to the world in hopes it will ask one out for a date. Then there are Blogs and there are Podcasts. Many of these are similar to the two mentioned above and some are very different.
If the world of cyberspace was a house, I would say that the first mentioned is like inviting someone into your bathroom to chat while you shower and shave. The second, in this analogy, is like inviting someone into your living room and arranging it just so before they knock on the door and then chatting about your furniture, your pets, your children and such.
The last two mentioned I would equate in most cases with inviting someone in to sit at your kitchen table and either telling them a story or relating your own views and thoughts on a given topic over a pot of tea or coffee. A casual lecture, as it were. My own cyber-addresses (Stochastic Scintillae Blog and Stochastic Scintillae Audio Podcast) are of this kitchen table variety.
My intent is to share my cognition and beyond that, I have no agenda. While I make no claim to know any more than anyone else or to be in possession of stories more numinous than the next person, I do have the ability and the desire to express what goes on in my heart and between my ears. It is acknowledged that because my kitchen door is open, one may leave through that same door if they have no interest in the story being told or the topic being explored.
I was picking apricots today with my wife and as we worked in the sunshine I found myself musing on some information that has been in popular print for thirty-two years. The information has to do with Jesus, Mary and Joseph of Arimathea. This information would have been considered terribly heretical not too many years ago and indeed by the Oxford Dictionary definition of the word “heresy”, it still is. Now, the first four paragraphs come into perspective and all those who wish to leave the kitchen table, please do so now.
We had just watched the Albicelestes defeat the Orangemen in a Quarter-final penalty kick shoot-off. The anointed one for the winning team was named Lionel, the lion of god. His surname was Messi, which is real close to Messiah. From the close up shots of the Argentine fans, after he put the ball in the back of the net, he certainly seemed to be regarded as a savior. The English word mess comes from the Latin missus or “that which is sent” and message comes from the Latin missum or “to send.” It stands for food that has been sent to a table and later became to mean a group of soldiers who eat together at the same table or a group who associate at the same table, kind of like the Last Supper.
I had recently re-read a book that dealt at length with the the Albigensians of Languedoc who were considered heretics and were persecuted viciously. A council was held near one of their towns called Albi and they were declared heretics. That is where the name came from. They held Jesus to be an angel and not a god. They were also known as Cathars and were associated with Bogomils and Gnostics. As I munched on fresh apricots, I wondered where the name for this delicious fruit came from.
My dictionary told me that the Old English apricock came from the French abricot, which came from the Spanish albarcoque, which derived from the Arabic alburquq. This word is made of al, the article for the and Latin Greek praikokkion, which is from the Latin praecox or praecoquus which simply means “early ripe “or pre-cooked. Precocious, if you will. Evidently it came from first domestication in China to Armenia and spread to the rest of the world from there. My town has an apricot festival each summer and the hardy trees are ubiquitous.
Heresy is defined as “1 belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine 2 opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.” - origin Greek hairesis 'choice, sect'. When we look around at all the “choices and sects” of the world's major religious orthodoxies, it becomes easy to see why books see print today that yesterday would have kindled the pyres of their authors. Have we become as a species more tolerant? Perhaps but let us not jump to that conclusion just yet.
The information alluded to was put in a very concise format in a particular book called The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail by Messrs. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. Many people have read this work and many more have heard of it. This is not intended as a review of the book and it is mentioned only as a convenient, well documented and thorough compilation of the species of information that fueled this essay. I find the reaction to the book to be of far more interest.
For those unfamiliar with the book, let me say that it contends that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that Mary of Bethany was the Magdalene, that there were children from this union and that they escaped to southern France where they gave rise to the Merovingian line of kings of which there are living descendants today. The Marriage in Cana is argued to be Jesus' own marriage and Lazarus is argued to be not only Jesus' brother-in-law but his “beloved disciple”. It further contends that the Knights Templar and their offshoot, The Priory of Sion were and are the guardians of this secret. While the possibility that Jesus did not die on the cross and that he may have been a mortal man are discussed, these conjectures are not expounded upon to any great length.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was of the line of David of the Tribe of Judah. The first king of the Jews was Saul who was of the Tribe of Benjamin. I understood from the material that there had been an altercation between the Benjamites and the other eleven tribes long before the time of Jesus. There had been a war and the other tribes had been cursed if they gave their daughters to Benjamites to wed. The inhabitants of Shiloh had remained neutral in the war and it was finally decided that the Benjamites might conduct a raid on the Shiloh women folk and thus increase their decimated numbers for the sake of the entire shebang. After recovering, the Benjamites produced the first King, Saul.
I learned that Jerusalem had been originally the property of the Tribe of Benjamin, so when Saul was deposed by David of the Tribe of Judah and his capital was set up in Jerusalem, there were some Benjamites who felt their birthright had just been snatched away. It is conjectured that, if Mary Magdalene was in fact a Benjamite, a marriage to her by Jesus would have consolidated his claim to the throne of the nation and healed an old rift. With the country under occupation by a superior force and governed by puppets, it would have been a sketchy time indeed.
Now, that is a lot of conjecture, argument and hypothesis but I must point out that the three gentlemen who assembled the book took great pains to clearly document what could be documented and to clearly state that which could not. I have found that when examining history, an open mind to data from all sources and some time to let Occam's Razor pare it down against common sense facts, leads to the most interesting and the most plausible theories. I say theories because I personally wasn't there to witness the events, were you?
Many people will gleefully spin-off into chasing the Templars or the Priory and looking for multi-layered symbology in ancient texts and old paintings and sculptures. These are of great interest and are the forensics, as it were, of historical research. If you are trying to track something you have to know which prints belong to which animals as well as their everyday habits and customs. I believe in this context, the practice is called semiotics.
Others will be shocked and immobilized by the prospect of knowing that in addition to the Gospels in their Bible, that there are other texts and other gospels of which not all have been made public as yet and of those already made public, many do not agree with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Scholars, priests, scientist and kings study these documents and all make their own theories. Scientists, priests, scholars and kings are mortal men and women.
This brings us to kings. Kings are usually anointed or “christened” at their coronation. In the olden days it was done with oil. The Hebrew word for the Anointed One is Messiah and the Greek word is Khristos. In the Oxford Dictionary, Messiah is defined as “the promised liberator of the Jewish Nation as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.” We need not be talking of deep spiritual matters at this point, we are simply discussing known customs in regard to kings.
Mortal kings and emperors may be worshiped as gods by some people and may yet be deposed by other people such as Emperor Hirohito, who was worshiped by the Japanese as the offspring of the sun goddess Amaterasu. This same man who died a very human death of duodenal cancer in 1989 had been forced after WWII by a man without the title of king who smoked a corn-cob pipe to explicitly reject the claim that he, the Emperor of Japan was an incarnate divinity. Although he did so, he was quoted as saying in private to his vice-grand chamberlain, "It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the Emperor is a descendant of the gods."
We may not know if all the people chose to believe in his divinity before or after his stated renunciation but the salient point is that the statement quoted above tells us that he considered himself to be in a different class than his subjects as indeed he was. Just as a god requires worshipers so do worshipers require a god. While it is near impossible to “take away” something as intangible as a core widespread belief, it is a relatively easy matter to replace it with a surrogate. A tangible reward or privilege meted out with the intangible promise of more and greater has always created a virtual perpetual-motion machine which may be set to any task the operator wishes.
No doubt, in Jesus' day, there were those among the Jews who thought he was the promised liberator and there were those who rejected the idea. The important thing is that probably none believed him to be a divinity. The arguments were likely over his claim to the throne of Israel. This would have greatly concerned the Roman overlords. As any of us can learn from recent history, when tribes are kept squabbling with each other in perpetuity, it becomes a simple matter to control both. If an individual was judged to be capable of legitimately unifying twelve tribes, even as a mortal king, it would impose great trouble upon the governance of the region by a foreign force. It is interesting to ponder that had it been decided on by the Jewish religious leaders to execute Jesus whether they would have needed permission from the Romans.
Some of the Gospels of the early Christians were chosen to be assembled into the New Testament long after Jesus was seen no more. Other texts were banned or edited out and yet others awaited discovery in our day. These comprise the Apocrypha. The story of the Roman adoption of the new religion, the struggles of the Popes, the Anglican split, the Protestant Reformation, the councils on dogma and the many, many sects hived off in an ongoing process are voluminous, fascinating and of no consequence to the thrust of this essay.
Jerusalem was sacked just a few decades after the advent of Jesus' historical presence and hundreds of years later control passed to the Muslims, More hundreds of years later the Crusades came along and Jerusalem was retaken in 1099 and a man from France was chosen to be the Christian king. By 1291 with the fall of Acre, the region was again under Muslim control. During those two hundred years many things were put into motion that move yet.
I contend that whether or not Jesus was a divinity and whether or not he died on the cross, the story of history as we know it would have equal plausibility under both scenarios. Jesus was a Jew and in his own lifetime it was a Jewish thing. Israel was organized into twelve tribes, so it was also a tribal thing. Jesus was of royal blood and that makes it an elite dynastic thing. The place was under foreign occupation and that makes it a political thing. All the Peoples of the Books acknowledge that he lived and the words attributed to him have helped to guide and heal billions of people over two millennium. Regardless of whether or not they consider him a prophet, a messiah or a god.
Those religions, their variants and their antitheses which stem from the deserts of the Middle East or the mountains of Northern India are relatively new, in the grand scheme of time. In my opinion, long before the Torah, the Talmud, the Old and New Testaments or the Koran were written much was known about the nature of indigenous groups of peoples from Europe, Africa, Asia and the New World. All those places suffered or enjoyed by turns special anointed humans called kings. All these kings kept meticulous genealogical records.
A Semitic goat-herder didn't compose the Torah, a taxi driver didn't write the Koran nor did a dairy farmer compose the Guru Granth Sahib. These writings tell one how to live, why so and give an explanation of the past as well as a foretaste of the future. They are rules of conduct for common folk with explanations, warnings, punishments and rewards. They are great aids to those who would be monarchs, emperors or kings in the governing of their masses. They are necessary and valuable aids for those masses who would be governed. I do not say that smugly or put myself above anyone. I live in the realm of Queen Elizabeth and I must bring a tape-measure and a rule book along when I go fishing, for example. I am, however allowed to go fishing if I have a license and that is a nice privilege. My privilege can be revoked as well.
To me, if a man comes forward one day to claim the throne of the world, the issue would not be whether or not he was a divinity, the issue would be that yet another family had this kind of aspiration and the patience and tenacity of pine tree in order to get the job done. Divine or not, he would still be king and would be calling the shots. My own code of life would not suffer to learn that Jesus had been a mortal elite nor would I discard many of his teachings, in which I place credence as being correct. I also would not forget that many people do not subscribe to those same teachings, even among those who promote them.
If a massive final showdown between Islam and Christianity ensues as written about by Albert Pike, it would certainly appear as if all along there had been a Machiavellian blueprint of sorts leading to the resolution of a final occupant of a final throne. I guess you could say that religious texts are pre-cooked, while kings that fall are precocious. There is a difference. Apricots are soft, delicious, quickly ripening and full of nutrients but the tree is gnarly, tough and amazingly resilient to both heat and cold. Just as it is handy to have a Swiss knife when picking apricots, it is handy to have Occam's Razor when pondering complicated historical questions.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.