Jesus of Nazareth – Dissident Teacher

10 Dissidents Who Changed the World: #1

Dissident 1Jesus was not a good little boy. By all accounts, the mystic drifter was critical of the government, critical of organized religion, and critical of apathetic souls who complacently sustained the status quo.

Forever the malcontent freethinker, Jesus habitually ignored taboos, unceasingly empowered disrespected riffraff, and wandered from town to town with a hippy gang of penniless communal punks, bringing disorder and chaos wherever he dusted his sandals.

And two thousand years later? The man’s real identity has all but disappeared.

Faux Dead Celebrity Religion

ChristEven as millions worship a faux image in his name, Jesus’ most important messages have been buried beneath a centuries-long torrent of disinformation and superficial distractions.

Only a few years after his execution, channeled scripture and fabricated words were already being stuffed in his mouth. Since then, authentic quotes have been twisted by misguided bourgeois interpretations and institutional creeds — dogma spawned by the same variety of euphonious hypocrites that Jesus spurned with so much turbulent passion in his own lifetime.

And yet, for those who bother to dig deep, at the heart of the bizarre steeped-in-human-sacrifice-and-cannibalism rituals, the intolerant cultish conversion crusades, and the billion-dollar industry built upon macabre first-century dead-celebrity worship, they find the origin: our world’s most famous blasphemer and seditionist, and a mettlesome, hard-boiled, number-one dissident.

The Birth of Jesus

Jesus’ non-Germanized name was probably Yeshua and most historians agree that he was a very real person. Most historians also agree that much of the scriptural Jesus legend is fiction.

The NativityFor starters, the whole Christmas story is historically flawed. (For those unfamiliar with the Nativity, some scriptures tell how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judea, after his parents traveled from their home in Nazareth, Galilee, to take part in a Roman census. This happened while Herod the Great ruled Judea and Quirinius governed Syria.)

First, there was never a Roman census ordered for residents of Nazareth, Galilee. Period.

Second, Quirinius didn’t come to power until a decade after Herod died.

Third, heavily pregnant women don’t set off on four-day, 100-mile jaunts on a donkey.

It’s also worth mentioning that, even though scriptures don’t give a date of birth, Jesus was not born a Capricorn while shepherds tended their flocks in the field. Judean shepherds simply didn’t put their sheep out to pasture during the harsh month of December.

In fact, the first Christians didn’t teach the story of Jesus’ birth from a virgin. The earliest Christian writings — the letters of Paul of Tarsus — make no mention of Jesus having an extraordinary birth at all, and Paul hung out with Jesus’ brother James, so he was in a position to get the real lowdown. Paul just says Jesus was “born of a woman.” (Galatians 4:4)

These, and other indications, suggest that the beautiful, haunting, and wondrous birth fable was an addition of later Christians to make their cult more palatable to pagans.

In part, the Nativity fable borrows from Old Testament stories, and in part it borrows from the narratives of popular Roman gods, like Mithras, who was born of a virgin on December 25, then visited by shepherds and Magi. And shouldn’t we expect mixed allegories from coalescing Jewish and Roman cultures?

So, regarding Jesus’ historical birth, that leaves us with little to nothing, which amounts to only this: about two thousand years ago, a baby boy was born in the backwaters of Palestine. When this kid grew up, he profoundly rocked the course of human history…

The Historical Jesus

JesusMany Biblical scholars have used historical methods to construct the truest biography of Jesus. In addition to books that were included in the New Testament, there are hundreds of early Christian writings providing them clues.

As with most historical detective work, the earliest writings are presumed to paint a more accurate picture than later writings, which undoubtedly include added propaganda that favored particular religious sects emerging by the end of the first century AD.

These scholars have found that the earliest Christians — the Jews who followed Jesus’ brother James immediately after Jesus’ execution — might not even be considered Christian by today’s standards.

President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars, Oregon State University professor Marcus Borg, describes the real Jesus that these early Christians talked and wrote about:

He was a peasant, which tells us about his social class.

Clearly, he was brilliant. His use of language was remarkable and poetic, filled with images and stories. He had a metaphoric mind. He was not an ascetic, but world-affirming, with a zest for life.

There was a social-political passion to him. Like a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, he challenged the domination system of his day.

He was a religious ecstatic, a Jewish mystic, if you will, for whom God was an experiential reality. As such, he was also a healer. And there seems to have been a spiritual presence around him, like that reported of St. Francis or the Dalai Lama.

And I suggest that, as a figure of history, he was an ambiguous figure. You could experience him and conclude that he was insane, as his family did, or that he was simply eccentric, or that he was a dangerous threat, or you could conclude that he was filled with the Spirit of God.

The Teachings of Jesus

Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple, El GrecoAt a time when the Roman Empire and Jewish elite taught Galileans to look out for number one and avoid unclean outcasts, Jesus preached exactly the opposite. He said that everybody was welcome in the Kingdom of God, and that number one would be last. What’s more, he said the Kingdom of God wasn’t a future reward, but was present in the now if people would only open their eyes and see.

Not only did Jesus teach with words; he lead by example, too.

In a time and place where talking with women in public was taboo, Jesus not only spoke with, but openly defended women. And he touched sick outcasts in a purity-focused society where it was against the law to come into contact with the unclean.

Perhaps his biggest taboo breach of all was insulting the religious elite. After logically proving the absurdity of many of their dogmatic rules, Jesus criticized the wealthy religious authorities for selling deliverance to impoverished peasants.

As is often the case today, the elite largely left the talented dissident alone…until the dissident showcased their unethical, corrupt source of wealth and power. It was ultimately Jesus’ violent explosion at the Jerusalem temple’s moneychanging tables that got him swiftly arrested, tortured, and killed.

The Aftermath of Jesus

Jesus Was a DissidentSome Christians say that Jesus resurrected himself from the grave. Others say he was tossed on a burning garbage heap, as was the practice with most criminals executed by the Roman state. Muslims believe Jesus wasn’t crucified, and the Qur’an says God took him directly up to heaven. Still others believe he survived and had children with Mary Magdalene.

But, whatever happened to Jesus after his crucifixion, it’s his human life that I admire the most.

I most admire those of his actions that I’m capable of practicing myself, not the tales of walking on water or healing the blind. I admire how he loaned his voice and sweat to the weak and oppressed. I admire his unpopular but persistent inclusion of societal rejects. And I admire his courage to tell authorities with distinct and uncompromising language that they are full of bull excrement when they are, in fact, filled to their ears with their own duplicitous waste.

And that’s why, in addition to being an outstanding role model, Jesus is one of my favorite 10 dissidents who changed the world.

* * *

“Jesus was a dissident on the fringes of the Empire of his day. He stood with everybody who was nobody. He made a beeline to stand with those on the margins, those whose dignity had been denied, the poor and excluded, the easily despised, the demonized, and those whose burdens were more than they could bear. And they killed him for it.” ~Father Gregory J. Boyle

* * *

Go to the previous article in this series:
Stanislav Petrov – Dissident Comrade.

Go to the series index:
10 Dissidents Who Changed the World.

[tags]Jesus, Yeshua, dissident, Christianity[/tags]

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15 Responses to Jesus of Nazareth – Dissident Teacher

  1. Brent says:

    Saying that Jesus was a dissenter is just your hedonistic way of throwing Christianity under the bus! *snark*

    Great post. I love the way you separated Jesus from the Christian dogma that is prevalent today in the post to really show that we was the oddball when he walked the earth.

  2. Brent says:

    Joe,

    You are just dissing Jesus because you can’t stand the truth that come out the Christian church of today! *snark*

    Great post. Showing that Jesus was a dissident in his own time and to separate what he was from the Christian faith in your post was brilliant. He was really an oddball when he was alive. Now if only those who profess to follow his teachings actually did so…

  3. JoeC says:

    Thanks Brent! I really wanted to write about the “real” Jesus a lot of ministers and scholars and historians discover, even in Christian seminaries — the Jesus that Thomas Jefferson wrote about in his Jefferson Bible. He seems much more interesting and closer to the truth to me than the Disneyfied Superman so often marketed by our culture. Just my opinion, with respect to all the other opinions out there.

  4. Xman says:

    Nice job, Joe.
    If I had been sold a common sense story like this as a kid, instead of all that supernatural silliness that even a 5 year old can see through, then probably instead of rejecting religion outright, I would have looked for and learned from the lessons this man (and others, like MLK) taught by example.
    The “perfect man” crock of @#$! constantly amazes me….at how easily it is swallowed by the faithful (pun intended).

    I just put Jefferson Bible back on my “read” list.

  5. JoeC says:

    Thanks Xman. The Gospel of Thomas is a good read, too…one of the earliest Gospels, passed over by the committee that chose the Bible books, and hidden away in a cave in Nag Hammadi until the 20th century. You definitely have to look at all the various writings through the spin filter. I mean, if Fox News was around back then, and Jesus told a crowd that God existed in everything, including EVERY human, it would be just like Fox to report, “Jesus claims he’s God!” I think a lot of that went on with the Bible — a lot of not reporting the whole truth.

  6. AJ says:

    This is interesting, but rediscovering the “historical Jesus” in this case is simply nodding in the direction of today’s “experts,” which ends up being a creative way of bowing to the latest version of political correctness.

    I have a hard time seeing how that helps either Jesus or us.

  7. Lynne says:

    Terrific post. I’m bookmarking this. Thanks.

  8. Lynne says:

    I figured AJ for a Bible-thumper. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to him that one can live a moral life sans religion.

  9. pelmo says:

    Can you imagine how Jesus would feel if he came back today and saw how much money has been made off his name, and how people treat one another in his name.

  10. Xman says:

    Thanks, Joe.
    I went to the site you linked to (Gospel of Thomas). Certainly seems a site for scholarly types…but backs up what we all know of human nature, commonsense, etc.
    I have to agree with AJ that the “experts” of course will put everything through their 21st century filter. But disagree with him that it is a bad thing. For people who find the pursuit of the true story important, one just has to use the best tools and intentions one can come up with. The alternative is to stop pursuing knowledge and even resort to following religious leaders who are more concerned with their own “feeling” about religion, instead of using new knowledge to constantly challenge their personal views (feelings).
    AJ, to suggest a disdain for “experts”, also seems to suggest you have a disdain for knowlege and truth.

  11. JoeC says:

    I just look at it like an evolving thing…this is what I think is closest to the truth right now, and when more information comes along tomorrow (more Dead Sea scrolls found, or something…) I’m going to try to be as objective as I can and open to a new and better “truth.” Faith for me is not hanging onto old beliefs no matter how obvious it becomes that the facts weren’t what I thought they were, but faith to me is believing that the truth is always going to show me something more stranger and wonderful than fiction. In a way, having perceptions change from time to time about Jesus (and other historical figures…Jefferson, Franklin, or whoever…) keeps them exciting and alive and worth revisiting.

  12. La Sirena says:

    Very human and surprising spin on the Nazarene. Kinda puts a whole new spin on WWJD.

    I went to Catholic school for 13 years and was fortunate in that the Jesuits DID kind of portray JC as a kind of independent thinker and they were always giving us important info like the aramaic word for virgin and unmarried woman are one and the same. Everyone like to say that means you can’t tell the difference — but if you don’t have a word for something doesn’t that mean that thing or concept doesn’t exist for you? Kind of like the opposite of “the eskimos have 20 words for snow” theory. What I’m stating rather clumsily is: If the Aramaic word for virgin and unmarried woman are the same, then doesn’t that mean that (to the Aramaic-speaking mind) the 2 states are equal?

    I’m going to go read “the Gospel According to Tom” now.

  13. QuantumDogma says:

    “Il messengare es none importante.”
    Focus on the message, instead of the messenger.

  14. Daniel says:

    Its strange how I kinda thought this all along growing up in a catholic school. That it all seemed a bit too weird. That the church would order the deaths of thousands of women for practicing ‘witchcraft’, yet here in the modern age where no such magic has been proven to exist, still wont apologize. Not very like the Christ they are trying to portray. If anything Jesus was just supposed to represent that which we should all strive to achieve, but not be ashamed of failing to reach, more or less because its impossible.

    If the church really wants to do good, take the millions of dollars they have stored in Vatican city, and spend it on feeding, clothing, and educating the poor. THEN and only THEN will you have a religion worth following. Until then, follow your own moral compass.

    Cheers

  15. JoeC says:

    Thanks for the comments, Daniel. It is strange, isn’t it, how religion so often evolves into exactly what any particular prophet or savior taught against. I don’t necessarily think religion is bad any more than man is bad…man and religion have both done some heroic things, and some inhumane and ungodly things. I just think that God is spiritual and religion is created by man in an attempt to reach God, and so religion can’t help but fail, because it becomes more and more like man over time…further and further away from the universal consciousness. It’s when people start worshiping their religion more than experiencing a universal intelligence/consciousness…that’s when all hell seems to break loose.

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