A Few Words About the “Apostle” Paul

Most Christians are aware that sometime after the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter and John under the leadership of Jesus’ brother, James, controlled and maintained the Jerusalem congregation. They sent out emissaries (known as “apostles”) to speak in their behalf to other Jewish congregations across Asia Minor.

Some years later, Paul announced that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him and gave him special knowledge about the meaning of Jesus. He said he was endorsed by Jesus’ own brother, James and by Peter and John. He recounted how they told him to spread the message of Jesus to the rest of the Gentile world. He believed his understanding of Jesus was superior to the message the world had received so far. He insisted that his message was transmitted directly from God and was therefore, beyond question.

He further asserted that he was appointed as an “apostle” by none other than James, Peter, and John.

He wrote of his visions and interpretations of the sacred texts that eventually took their place alongside of the existing scriptures the followers of Jesus already believed.

What? . . . Wait a minute. . . . I am sorry. . . did I say “Paul”?

. . . I meant “Joseph Smith”.

These were claims he made beginning in 1820 that became the foundation of the Mormon church.1 He was and is almost universally rejected as a false prophet by main-stream fundamentalist Christians.

They see no reason to believe his unsubstantiated claims, made years after the time of Jesus. After all, by his own admission, he never met Jesus before his execution. And yet, for two thousand years, fundamentalist Christians have bought into the same story – hook, line and sinker. Just switch out Joseph Smith and replace him with (Paul) Saul of Tarsus.

Paul proclaimed himself to be an apostle (ἀπόστολος), one “sent” to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. But aside from the writings attributed to him, there is no evidence in support of this proposition. The only alleged contemporary “witness” to his claims was his traveling companion, Luke, who also never met Jesus.

Why then, you may ask, do Christians unanimously accept his claims, the earliest of which were written at least twenty years after the crucifixion?

Back in my Christian years, I struggled with hopeless attempts to reconcile Paul’s teachings with those that other New Testament writers attributed to Jesus and to his own brother, Jacob (universally mistranslated as “James”).

Jesus was reported to have said “think not that I am come to destroy the law [Torah}, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” But he didn’t stop there. He went on to say “till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18 Emphasis mine.

Jesus’ brother, James, clearly believed nothing in the Torah had changed. No one was to pick and choose what they wanted and reject what they did not. He said “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10.2

According to the writer of Matthew, Jesus proclaimed that everyone is to be judged by what they did in life. When it comes to rewards or punishments in the afterlife, Jesus displayed literally no interest in what people did or did not believe. In his account of the final judgment, what people believe is not even mentioned as a criteria for reward or punishment. Matthew 25:31-46.

It is impossible to reconcile these claims with Paul’s assertion that “sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 And “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.” Romans 10:4.3 This was Paul’s position, even though heaven and earth had clearly not yet passed away.

James said “faith without works is dead, being alone.” James 2:17-24. Compare his approach with that of Paul, who emphasized the belief, rather than the actions of Abraham as the thing that was “counted to him as righteousness”, James said it was the actions of Abraham that made the difference. According to Paul’s “other Gospel”4, it was not what Abraham did, but what he thought in his head that made all the difference. Romans 4:1-3. For Paul, one’s acts of compassion and kindness are of no value at all. See Romans 3:28.

Modern Christians may not clearly understand that what Paul was saying amounted to teaching others to disregard the law. But according to Luke, James and the other leaders in Jerusalem certainly did.

They told Paul there were “many thousands of Jews . . . which believe; and they are all zealous of the law”. But they had heard rumors that Paul was teaching “all of the Jews that are among the Gentiles [overseas congregations in places such as Alexandria, Corinth and Galatia]” to “forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”. Acts 21:20-22.

Apparently, this “other Gospel” of Paul did not play well among those who had actually known Jesus back in Jerusalem. But it was precisely what he was communicating to the congregation in Galatia.5 In an attempt to save himself from the mob (you know, Jesus’ own family and those Paul refers to as those who “seemed to be pillars” of the Church)6, he jumped through hoops to demonstrate to them that he was still 100 percent on the obey-the-law train. See Acts 21:23-26.

He desperately needed the illusion of their endorsement. If he was not an “apostle” or authorized messenger sent from James, Peter and John, the Jewish congregations overseas would never listen to his radical theories about the expiration of the law (Torah).

No wonder he thought it was necessary to write to the congregation in Galatia that he was definitely not lying to them. Galatians 1:207

But the people in Jerusalem were not buying it. He was arrested and almost killed by the leadership in Jerusalem. This would have been the end of his “ministry” had he not been rescued by Roman guards.

Indeed, Paul’s message was as different from the message of Jesus and his people back in Jerusalem as his language of choice (Greek) was from the language of everything they considered to be scripture.

For a deeper dive into this important difference, see my previous article about the “other gospel“. For more details about how the books of the New Testament, including the writings of Paul, were published in the first place, see my last post Presenting Myth as an Historical Record and check out my most recent books that thoroughly document this subject.

The only way to really understand what an author was trying to accomplish is to learn as much as we can about who his intended audience was and what were his motives.

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  1. At the time, he had three supporting witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) who claimed in a document written by Harris that Smith’s claims were true. ↩︎
  2. For meticulously documented discussions of the disparity between the position of James and the Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) community and that of Paul, see my books The Second Crucifixion of Jesus and Revelation and the AntiChrist. ↩︎
  3. Paul was all in on supporting, eating with, and obeying the rules of Rome. He even went so far as to say “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers [the Roman Empire]. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Romans 13:1. He further argues that the Roman authorities “. . . are God’s ministers” and instructed his readers to pay Roman taxes and to follow all of their rules (verses 6 -7). ↩︎
  4. Romans 2:16. ↩︎
  5. See Galatians 6:15. “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” ↩︎
  6. Galatians 2:9. ↩︎
  7. Note the glaring difference between the account of how Paul submissively complied with the demands of the Jerusalem leaders when there (Acts 21:21-26), and his story of how he really showed Peter a thing or two in Antioch. Galatians 2:11-14. ↩︎

Presenting Myth as an Historical Record

“It isn’t what he doesn’t know that bothers me. It’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so” I am not sure who first said this (it has been attributed to Josh Billings, Will Rogers, Mark Twain, and others). But it so perfectly fits so many people.

Many historians believe there is no evidence that a historical “Jesus” existed. They base this conclusion largely on the fact that aside from the biblical writers, he is not mentioned in contemporary sources.

First century Roman sources speak of groups called “Christians”. But with the exception of an obvious later interpolation about him in the writings of Josephus, they don’t speak of the man upon whom Christianity claims to be based.

They are right. That man did not exist. The stories of Paul about a figure he claims to have seen the ghost of called “Christ” have become conflated with the life of the Jewish rebel, Yeshua ישוע who was crucified as an insurrectionist. For a more thorough explanation and supporting documentation of how this came about, see my books, The Second Crucifixion of Jesus, and Revelation and the AntiChrist.

Paul never met Jesus. He began writing his earliest letters at least twenty years after the crucifixion. But he had a lot to say about the message of “Christ”, which incidentally, contradicts what we can know about Jesus and his real world.

Paul speaks of some mystical figure he claims to have seen “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know” (2 Corinthians 12:2). But he never mentions in his own writings the incident on the road to Damascus as told by his traveling companion Luke in Acts 9:3-22.

He does however claim to have seen the resurrected “Christ” as “one born out of due time”. 1 Corinthians 13:8. Never mind the fact that Jesus never – ever called himself “Christ”. Jesus and his family spoke Hebrew and would never have adopted “Christ” or any other Greek word to describe themselves. See my blog post What’s so Bad about Speaking Greek.

The first and most obvious tell that indicates the writer is not a legitimate member of the group who actually knew Jesus is self-identification with Greek, and writing in the Greek language.

Saul, proudly changed his name from the original Hebrew to “Paul” (see Acts 13:9), a Greek name. Josephus is the Greek version of Yoseph יעסף the original Hebrew name abandoned by the turncoat who wrote for Titus under the name Flavious Josephus.

Likewise, the name “James” never occurs in any of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament. It was substituted for the original name of Jesus’ brother Yaacov יעקב (Jacob), by later New Testament writers.

As Joseph Atwill demonstrates in his controversial book, Caesar’s Messiah, the sequence of events describing the “ministry” of Jesus in the New Testament are obviously based on earlier stories about the exploits of Titus. He points out that even in the numerous places where the gospels contradict one another, the sequence of events is unchanged.

Atwill has been trashed by mainstream Christian apologists such as James M. Rochford. Mr. Rochford (whose Master’s Degree in Theological Studies) hardly qualifies him as an historian) attacks Atwill for his alleged lack of scholarly credentials. It seems to me that his critique of Atwill demonstrates that he either has not read, or has completely failed to understand the premise of the book.1

Simplistic apologetics in support of the traditional story notwithstanding, Atwill makes an interesting and robust case for the Roman approved Gospel accounts and their circulation in Asia Minor at time when Rome controlled everything that was published.

This video sums up the claims of Joseph Atwill’s book, Caesar’s Messiah:

Before any of the gospels were written, the Roman-friendly version of the Christ story was already in circulation thanks to the person who identifies himself as the “apostle” Paul.

That Paul was a blood relative of the Herod family is clear from his own statements.2 And the composition of the gospel accounts after the fall of Jerusalem is well established by historians and biblical scholars. These documents were freely distributed in the Roman Empire at the same time Roman officials were systematically tracking down and burning every writing they did not like.

While under “house arrest” (having been literally rescued from “the Jews” by Roman guards), Paul converses quite openly and freely with the Roman Governor Felix, his wife Drusilla, and her sister, Bernice (who appeared suspiciously close to her own brother, Agrippa II).3

Note the cozy relationship of Paul with Roman officials and particularly with Bernice, a well-connected member of the Herodian-Flavian family who was to become the mistress of Titus. These Roman officials were on the same page with him. Luke credits King Agrippa with exclaiming to Paul “you almost persuade me to be a Christian”. Acts 26:28.

At this meeting with Festus, Agrippa and Bernice all agreed that Paul was innocent and should not be in chains. Verses 30-31.

In a world of Us versus Them (where “Us” represents the Romans, and “Them” represents the followers of the historical Jesus) Paul and the Romans are clearly in the “Us” column. Paul shows no interest in the historical “Jesus”. He is only concerned with the Greek-Roman figure he calls “Christ”.4

The family and followers of Jesus had no use for the Romans. They took their place along with the other rebels at Qumran. They were ready and willing to die before accepting Roman authority. They were proud to be conspicuously in the “Them” column.

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  1. For example, Rochford accuses Atwill of claiming Josephus wrote all 27 books of the New Testament. But this either deliberately or mistakenly fails to understand Atwill’s contention that the New Testament was written by three groups or families: the Falvians, Herods, and Alexanders. See Atwill Joseph. Caesars’ Messiah. Charleston, S.C.: CreateSpace, 2011. p.276.
    ↩︎
  2. He openly salutes Herodion (little Herod) as “my kinsman”. Romans 16:11
    ↩︎
  3. Drusilla, second wife of the Roman Governor, Felix, was-pure bred Herodian but is called a “Jewess” in Acts 24:24.
    ↩︎
  4. To explore this enormous difference, check out the blog article What was the Other Gospel?. ↩︎

Why Should We Care About the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Caves near Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were dicsocvered

(Based on my previous article from February 2023)

If you could step into a time machine and get a first-hand look at the world of Jerusalem in the first century C.E., would you be interested? Would you be willing to pull back the cover and take a look, even if doing so revealed that we have been lied to for two thousand years?

Thanks to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the subsequent fight to have their contents released to the public by Robert Eisenman and a few other honest, dedicated scholars, we now have that chance.

When I first read about the discovery of hundreds of ancient scrolls in caves along the Dead Sea, many of which were biblical texts written two thousand years ago, I had no concept of their actual significance. I was still young and had not yet freed myself from the blinders of my family’s fundamentalist Christian limitations.

Like other Christians I knew, my first thought was not “wow this is great”, “I wonder if there are things the scrolls can tell us we did not know before about this period.”  

Oh, no. I, like the other Christians I knew, immediately thought about validation. We were Lazar focused on two things and two things only: Do they say anything about Jesus; and how close are the biblical passages to the manuscripts we had before?

This was important because, until now, these documents were literally one thousand years older than the oldest known manuscripts of material Christians call the “Old Testament”. In other words, to “believers”, their value was not as a window into history that was previously unknown.

Their primary importance to fundamentalists was (and by the way, still seems to be) to demonstrate that the official stories and “scriptures” that were passed down to us by the Church were accurate and true. There was little to fear in that regard because their translation and publication were meticulously controlled by a handful of Catholic scholars. And they made sure no one who doesn’t drink the grape cool-aid had access to them.

Scholars had already debated over whether or not John the Baptist was from this group. As I explained in The Second Crucifixion of Jesus, the more we look at the scrolls, the harder it is to believe he was not.

To the extent that any of this material appears in the New Testament (and some of it almost certainly does), it was the New Testament writers who borrowed from it. That is because all of this material predates everything in the New Testament with one singular exception: the writings of Paul.

The epistles of Paul (at least the seven which scholars attribute to him as the genuine author) were written at the approximately the same time as the latest sectarian documents among the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, Paul and his audience were on the opposite side of the fence from the People at Qumran.

The scrolls anticipate a coming war between their caretakers (the “sons of Light”) and the forces of darkness. Much of that language seems remarkably similar to descriptions of Jesus’ followers in the New Testament.

Again, the latest of these scrolls were being written during the time the events described in the New Testament were going down. Also writing shortly after the caretakers of the scrolls were murdered, Josephus, a Jewish turncoat who became a historian for the Romans, published his account of the community at Qumran.

They were not entirely composed of peaceful monks as we were previously led to believe. They included a very militant faction which he called the “Fourth Philosophy,”[i] and credited their founding to a character named Judah the Galilean, whose movement is mentioned along with a greatly exaggerated rumor of its demise by Luke in Acts 5:37.[ii]  In Josephus’ words:

. . . the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends who used to alleviate our pain; there were also very great robberies and murders of our principle men[iii].

Throughout his writings, Josephus (writing from the Roman perspective) refers to those of this underground movement as “Robbers,” “Zealots,” and “Sicarii.” Today scholars and historians generally refer to them as “Zealots.” Zealots were the most radical and uncompromising faction of the Essenes. They were the driving force of the active arm of the Messianic Movement. As Robert Eisenman has shown, at least a couple of Jesus’ brothers were more than likely among their ranks.[iv]

The Zealots were guerilla fighters whose goal in life was to overthrow the Roman domination of their land and of their Temple.

Attempted insurrections and the threat of insurrections were constantly monitored and addressed by Roman officials. 

The Sectarian Non-Biblical Scrolls Contain the Nuggets of Forgotten History

Many of the texts written and maintained by this group were never included in official versions of Jewish or Christian bibles. One of the most interesting of these, is a scroll known as the Damascus Document. Prior to the discovery of the caves in 1947, some locals over the years had already discovered some documents in caves near the Dead Sea. Various pieces and fragments were among the documents from the caves.

An entire manuscript of this document had been recovered from the Cairo Geniza and published by Rabbi Solomon Schechter in 1910. At the time, some claimed this document must be a forgery. But its authenticity was established when virtually identical fragments of the same document were found in the caves since 1947.

The document addresses its vision of the community in a lengthy narrative that speaks of figures that dominated the community’s thinking at the time. It also includes a set of rules for the community.

Initially, it was assumed (and some scholars still believe) that the document references two messiahs – one from the priestly line, and one from the Davidic line. But some scholars such as Robert Eisenman believe it is more likely that they anticipated one messiah who would descend from both lineages.

This was an anti-establishment, anti-Roman community. When one is planning an insurrection, you would not expect that the leaders would be identified by name. And such is the case here. Prominent individuals are identified by labels such as the “Teacher of Righteousness” and the “Spouter of Lies”.

For an in-depth inquiry into what these labels may mean, check my most recent book, Revelation and the AntiChrist. It explores how many of the New Testament mysteries can be explained without resorting to the magical thinking of most commentaries.

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[i] Josephus seems to identify this group as Essenes – but of a very militant variety. The other three philosophies identified by Josephus were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the peaceful Essenes. See Antiquities of the Jews Book XVIII, 1, 1-6.

[ii] Luke downplays the success of this movement claiming: “he also perished, and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.” But in fact, it was this same Movement that fought to defend Jerusalem in the last war that began in 66 C.E. Wars of the Jews. Book II, 17, 8.

[iii] Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, 1, 1.

[iv] According to various historical sources, Jesus’ brothers Simon and Jude, fall “squarely into the Zealot tradition.” Eisenman, Robert. James the Brother of Jesus. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. pp. 858-866.

What’s So Bad About Speaking Greek?

(Slightly revised version of the article originally published on June 30, 2023)

In discussions about the New Testament over the years, we always seem to go back to blind spots that keep the parts everyone knows about from making logical sense.

Such is the case when we talk about how things got the way they were at the time the Gospel accounts begin. Who were the scribes and pharisees? Where did they come from? What did the average Jew on the street in the first century think about them? Few realize the most important question of all. What is going on with that group of “Essenes” who wrote and maintained the Dead Sea Scrolls?

My second book, Revelation and the AntiChrist, discusses many common assumptions about concepts and ideas in Revelation that are not actually there at all. My new book goes into more detail about the striking similarity between the book of Revelation and other works of first century apocalyptic Jews found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls came from a vast library that was maintained at or near Qumran until 68 C.E. Some of the documents in that library came from other parts of the world. And some of those documents are written in Greek. But there is no evidence that the caretakers of that library wrote anything in Greek. All of the documents that appear to have been composed there are in Hebrew or Aramaic.

There is a good reason for that which is often overlooked by modern Christians. All of the earliest copies of New Testament documents are in Greek. But the people at Qumran were violently opposed to foreign languages and customs. And even though they required fluency in Greek from their leaders, they were especially opposed to Greek writing and culture.

Where did this visceral rejection of anything Greek come from? The following excerpt from Chapter Three should help clear up some of this confusion:

We Have Met the Enemy and They are Greek

Jeremiah, writing in the sixth century B.C.E., shortly after Babylon had taken the Jewish people into captivity (in 586 B.C.E.), predicted that their captivity would end after seventy years.

When the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon (539 B.C.E.) their suffering should have ended. The Temple was to be rebuilt and the golden eternal age of peace and prosperity would begin.

But within two hundred years the rebuilt Temple and all it represented faced a new threat of annihilation.  In 332 B.C.E., Alexander the Great stood poised to capture Jerusalem and replace Jewish culture with Greek.

It would seem that enough appeasers occupied positions of leadership to convince Alexander to preserve the status quo for a while. Josephus relates a fantastical story of how they pointed him to a prophecy from Daniel[i] that predicted a great Greek ruler would come through at about that time[ii].

Whenever Josephus relates something that he cannot rationally explain (or his handlers do not want him to explain), he tends to use this technique to move the narrative along.[iii]

Regardless of the real reason, the bore worm of Greek influence was now firmly planted within Jerusalem leadership. In another one hundred and fifty years, the gloves came off and the pretensions were gone.

By 175 B.C.E., the Greeks had their boy. Antiochus forced Onias III who was against the Hellenization of Israel to relinquish the office of High Priest to his brother, Joseph (a/k/a Jason). Antiochus IV had become king of the Seleucid Empire and was now auctioning off the office of High Priest in Israel.

Like Paul of the New Testament and like Josephus of the first century, the new High Priest traded in his Hebrew name “Joshua” for the Greek name “Jason”.

Israel was selling out to Greek culture in every conceivable way. Jason was granted permission to build a city (Antioch) and a gymnasium for Greek style games. Because these games were played in the nude, a surgical procedure was developed to undo circumcision[iv]. That way Jewish athletes could perform with Greek competitors without looking so conspicuously Jewish.[v]

But alas, even Jason was not Greek enough to make everyone happy. A group of malcontents led by Menelaus believed Jason was still favoring at least some aspects of traditional Judaism.

In 171 B.C.E. Jason sent him to Antiochus to pay the annual tax/tribute to maintain the office of High Priest, Menelaus outbid him and claimed the office for himself.[vi] Antiochus sent an officer and soldiers to make sure Jason was ousted and to collect the increased tribute promised to him by Menelaus.

Menelaus and his brother, Lysimachus pissed off everyone by looting the Temple and murdering the former High Priest Onias.

You Don’t Tug on Antiochus’ Cape – You Don’t Spit Into the Wind

Hope, greed, and hunger for power do not die easily. After hearing a rumor that Antiochus had died in Egypt, Jason instigated a coup to reclaim the office for himself. This resulted in an ugly war. Unfortunately for Jason (and the people of Israel) Antiochus was not so dead after all.

When he heard of these goings-on he was not amused. Antiochus interpreted this as an insult to his authority. He reacted in 168 B.C.E. by sending an army whose initial purpose was to destroy Jason and his allies.

Jerusalem was attacked twice. The new government took over everything and seized the property of those who had been loyal to Jason.

The simmering cauldron boiled over in 167 B.C.E. when a Jewish priest, Mattathias ben Johanan, was ordered to make a sacrifice to the Greek gods. He refused, then killed the guy who stepped forward to do the sacrifice in his place. He then killed the Seleucid government official who ordered the sacrifice. This was the beginning of a rebellion and a guerilla war led by Judah Maccabee[vii] and his family, and ultimately the recapture of the Temple in 164 B.C.E.

The Maccabees’ victory and subsequent cleansing and dedication of the Temple to purge the sacred place from Hellenistic corruption are remembered each year at Hanukkah. These were the pioneers of the Hasmonean Dynasty. Ironically, the official story of their exploits was only preserved in the books of I Maccabees and II Maccabees – both written in Greek.

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Notes


[i] Antiquities II.8.5. Whiston, William. trans. The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987. p.307.

[ii] If those sections of Daniel had existed in 332 B.C.E. this would probably have been a reference to Daniel 7:6; 8:3-8; 8:20-22; and 11.3.

[iii] Aside from the fact that the passages from Daniel that describe the rise and fall of the Greek empire had not been written yet, we must notice that Josephus says exactly the same thing about Vespasian’s decision to spare his own life and to spare Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai and allow him to found the academy at Yavne.

[iv] This was still evidently practiced in the first century as it is referenced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:18.

[v] See Antiquities XII.5. Whiston, William. trans. The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987. p.323.

[vi] 2 Maccabees 4:24.

[vii] Maccabee means “hammer” in Aramaic. But the name is thought to have been taken from an acronym for the Hebrew battle cry of the Maccabean fighters: מי־כמכה באלם יי “Who is like you among the mighty, O’ Lord!” Exodus 15:11.

The Relentless Pursuit of Ignorance

(Article originally published in 2023)

Things did not change quickly in ancient Egypt. But in 1353 B.C.E. there was a new sheriff in town. Akhenaten the son of Amenhotep III made changes that must have had his dad spinning in his pyramid. The establishment priesthood had a nice gig until Akhenaten stripped them of their authority, declared that the empire would now only worship one God, and moved the capital.

But smart-aleck kids, even if they are considered to be deities, don’t live forever. The system and the aristocracy that spawned them always gets the last laugh.

Subsequent pharaohs restored the national religion, moved the capital back to Thebes, and dealt with the legacy of Akhenaton the way totalitarian systems always do – they took that ugly little piece of history and tossed it on the dung heap.

Akhenaten was labeled as a criminal. His monuments were dismantled. His statues were destroyed. His name was redacted from public records and official lists of Egyptian rulers. He was so thoroughly scrubbed from historical records that he was completely forgotten until just over one hundred years ago.

Why Re-Invent the Wheel?

That level of thinking did not change much over the next 1500 years. The Roman empire turned it into an art form. It destroyed the civilization of Carthage, then built a new one on its ashes.

It brilliantly wiped out the memory of the Jewish zealots in the first century while simultaneously sponsoring a replacement for their Judaism. Two new theologies emerged – both completely accepting of Roman authority: Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

For more on how that came about, see my blog What was the “Other” Gospel, and check out The Second Crucifixion of Jesus on Amazon or at the Barns & Noble website.

Insecurity Breeds Tyranny

The longing to control the thoughts of us peasants is not new. Whenever you see a movement to ban (or burn) books, or to discredit (or burn) those who write them, there you will find a scared, nervous idiot who is paranoid about what the rest of us may find out.

The three bastions of defense instinctively raised by folks without supporting evidence on their side have always been the same: attack the messenger, kill the message, call on faith.

In 1925, John T. Scopes was found guilty of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it a criminal offense to teach the science of evolution in state-funded public schools. Anything that may expose the peasants to legitimate science and history scares the daylights out of those in power.

When history scholar James Loewen, examined twelve history books that were being taught in high school classrooms, he found that they consistently hid, sugar-coated, ignored, or outright lied about the major milestones of American history. [i]

To this day, there is a persistent effort to remove science from the classrooms or to at least “supplement” it with the superstitious mythology that has been deceptively labeled “creation science”.

After years of seeking and failing to find evidence to support the stories in the Christian Bible, most of our children are still taught that faith is a virtue. The older I get, the more I see the real world, the less patience I have with that silly notion.

Some would argue that faith can be a good thing because it offers hope for desperate people. Unfortunately, it also closes the windows of reality. In times of impending doom, its benefits of strengthening us with hope are more than offset by its tendency to support bad decisions.

In every respect, faith is the opposite of knowledge. Because it promotes intellectual paralysis, its only fruit is the status quo. Growth is made possible by learning – and learning by research.

Insistence on believing something regardless of evidence is the very definition of foolish. No one has ever grown in knowledge after beginning with the assumption that learning will not be permitted to change an existing belief.

Only by having the intellectual curiosity and personal courage to question the things we have been told, can we cut through the fog into which we were born.

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Notes


[i] Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. New York: The New Press, 2018.

If Blood Could Talk

(Article originally published in 2023)

In 1983 I was all in with the Messianic Jewish movement. This was a very personal journey. I never bought into the idea that I, as a Christian, needed to convert Jews to Christianity. Just the opposite was the case. I wanted to be closer to Jews so I could learn from them.

I took a trip to Israel as part of that personal journey. There were random leaflets posted on lamps and poles near the Temple Mount. Written in English, they said “Warning, the New Testament refers to rabbis and Jewish religious teachers as hypocrites and whitewashed tombs”.

I recognized the scripture they were quoting. I knew the quote was accurate. But I was convinced it did not mean modern rabbis who sincerely follow their convictions. This was a reference to insincere religious leaders. On the other hand, I instantly realized this was a reaction to the proselytization efforts of Messianic Jews. I wanted to tell them I did not want to change them – only to learn from them.

That was the first time I felt strange about identifying with the Messianic Jewish movement. A few days later it got worse.

In the old part of Jerusalem is a holocaust museum known as the “Chamber of the Holocaust”. After touring the horrendous exhibits, relics of disgusting unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the Nazis, I entered the adjacent section which consisted primarily of documentation. This was not documentation from the nazis in World War II.

These were contemporary documents. Page after page of modern, recent documents spouting the same antisemitic sewage that the Nazis were publishing before. But these were not my grandparent’s nazis. There were written and proudly signed by Christians. Most of them identified as “Reverend” so and so.

I struggled to remember any of the Christian leaders I had known over the years who had condemned the Church’s role in the holocaust. I knew there were good Christians who sacrificed their own lives to save Jews in the second world war. But these were good people who happened to be Christians. In many cases, they were going against their own Church leaders.

I had heard sermons about how bad the nazis were. But absent from those sermons was condemnation of the Church leaders who actively supported the Nazi movement. Nor have I ever heard anyone from the pulpit condemn the silent complicity of Church leaders who looked the other way while human beings were being tortured and murdered all around them.

I have never heard a sermon about the role of the Church in the promotion of antisemitism. The Church has never owned its guilt from the bullshit stories in the gospels that falsely claim, “all of the people” were screaming “his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). Every subsequent generation of Jewish people have come into the world with this stupid lie hanging over their heads.

This false and hateful portrayal of an imaginary mob trying to persuade the reluctant Roman, Pilate to crucify Jesus, is only one of many examples of the hateful depiction of Jesus’ own people in the New Testament.

Through the years, the Church did its part to nurture antisemitism from the hateful remarks of the “great reformers” such as Martin Luther, to the quotations from the New Testament and from these Church fathers that were cited by Nazis to justify their actions.

These things were racing through my mind as I came out of the last exhibit area and into the gift shop in front of the exit. It was at that moment that I experienced something I never saw coming. This was the first time in my life I felt a sense of shame for my beliefs. I knew the lady at the gift shop was Jewish. I could not look her in the eye. I knew she saw me as a Christian.

That identification took me out of the group in the human race that includes Jews. It put me in the group with a two-thousand-year record of hating Jews. I was ashamed and embarrassed to be seen as a representative of that group. To this day, I regret that I ever did identify with them.

Do You Believe in Magic

Humans think in stories. Whenever we see or learn something new, we try to sort it into one of our existing stories. That is easy. The hard, unnatural seeming thing is to change the baseline story. For most people, changing a fundamental story is too difficult, too much work, and offers little reward.

Religion is always dependent on some fundamental story. Most of us never replace the stories that were passed down to us from our parents. I suspect that very few would ever second-guess the story they inherited without some emotional trauma or dissatisfaction with the status quo.

While I definitely had emotional trauma and dissatisfaction in my life, I want to think I would have been a seeker anyway. My path from Pentecostal non-denominational Christian to Messianic Jewish Christian, to Conservative Jew, and finally to agnostic atheist has been bumpy – but very interesting.

As a child, or a hurting adult, coping with life can instill a need to believe in magic. Looking back, most of my path was haunted by that need. Having been deeply involved in three different flavors of religion, I understand them as various combinations of magic, philosophy, and emotional distress.

The recipe changes depending on which set of stories drive things. For those not born into it, Pentecostalism almost exclusively attracts people who are suffering from some form of intense emotional distress. In my early years I noticed that people who migrated into the Pentecostal movement were almost always hurting. They suffered from alcohol or drug addiction, or from serious medical conditions for which magic seemed to be the last and only hope.

The transition from Pentecostalism to the Messianic Jewish perspective was not a big leap. Non-denominational Pentecostalism has less of a centrally controlled set of doctrines than most Christian groups.

Because the acceptable beliefs are already varied, I only had to abandon one Christian idea to move from Pentecostalism to Messianic Judaism. I already believed Jesus was not the same entity as his “Heavenly Father” to whom he prayed from time to time according to the New Testament. Letting go of the concept that he was also “God” made better sense to me. He was only portrayed as equal to “God” in the fourth gospel. He was never portrayed that way in the earlier synoptic gospels.

Because my studies had not yet brought me to the realization that the purported “messianic prophecies” were not fulfilled by Jesus, dropping the idea that he was “God” while accepting the story that he was the Jewish Messiah seemed more like a stage in my growth than a change in religion.

Eventually, after more years of studying these prophecies in Hebrew, I finally concluded that Jesus had in fact, not fulfilled these prophecies. But I still believed the Jewish scriptures were God’s word. The natural progression then, was to convert to Judaism.

It took about five more years to realize that the Jewish scriptures were not written by God. They were smudged with the same human fingerprints I had previously found all over the New Testament. My acceptance of all these beliefs had depended on the “Bible” as a product of divine inspiration. If there was no divinely inspired book, there was no evidence of communication from a supernatural deity.


For a more in-depth study of the historical context, check out my latest book, Revelation and the AntiChrist, now available at Amazon.

Meanwhile, click here to get a copy of The Second Crucifixion of Jesus. It contains a treasure trove of evidence and sources that you can use in your own quest to learn more about this subject.

As always, my goal is to introduce you to things you are not likely to find in other places. Watch this space for future updates.

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Can a Lie be Big Enough to Break a Camel’s Back?

(Article originally published in 2023)

When digging up mysteries that are thousands of years old, new discoveries are only part of the process. Often, we must unlearn what we thought to be true before we can discover hidden gems that were in front of us all along. It turns out that lies can be connected in unforeseeable ways.

Let us consider two falsehoods that were imposed upon us more than seven-hundred years apart. The most recent was published in 1956 and has been often repeated since. But it may have been less deceptive but for another one that can be traced back to the end of the eleventh century. We will examine the second one shortly. It highlights (or helps to obscure) a most likely connection between Jesus’ followers and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The first one began with a passage in the New Testament that troubled Christian theologians. Jesus is quoted as saying it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24.

Jesus was quoted as making similar statements defining his followers as “the poor” in other places. See Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20. But this was different. This statement also condemned the rich and excluded them from the kingdom of God.

For context, we should note that scribes were highly trained and writing materials were extremely expensive in the first few centuries. The scribes who were recording these sayings were quite rich – or at least working for someone who was. This statement needed to be explained away.

And so, a legend with absolutely no basis in historical fact was born. It sounded so good, it has since been repeated as though it were a verifiable fact of history in the commentaries in various Christian Bibles for years. The story which, as near as we can determine, came directly from (the rectum of) Anselm of Canterbury sometime near the twelfth century goes like this:

There was a gate in first century Jerusalem known as the “needle’s eye that was so small a camel could only pass through by dropping its load and bending at the knees.

Yes. This is told to this day by people who represent themselves as scholars of the New Testament. For a good refutation and explanation of where this most likely came from see Andrew M. Henry’s You Tube Video at Religion for Breakfast.

By changing the story, they made what Jesus had said was impossible seem like it might just be possible, though difficult. It did not solve the problem. But in their minds, it helped. Hopefully, you, I, and the rest of the peasants would not notice the remaining problem.

But how, you may ask, does this attempt to hide the obvious meaning of the original statement relate to the second lie about the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Soon after the discovery of the extensive trove of documents hidden in caves near Qumran, some from the religious establishment went into a panic. What if these documents, composed at the same time as the events described in the New Testament contradict the New Testament stories?

In typical fashion, the religious establishment swooped in to protect whatever factual evidence that may contradict their official legends from seeing the light of day. In their meticulously documented book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh tell us, the scrolls were kept under lock and key from everyone except a small handful of almost exclusively Catholic insiders who refused to share the material with scholars around the world.

They managed to keep the rest of us in the dark until the photographic plates were released without their permission in 1991.

Before the contents of the documents were known to the rest of us, we were misled about their contents.

We were told that there was “nothing to see here, keep moving along.” Soon after the Scrolls were discovered, Theodore Gaster assured us that the members of the Qumran community “were in no sense Christians and held none of the fundamental theological doctrines of the Christian faith.”[i]

Before I began digging into them myself, and reading scholars such as Robert Eisenman, I took experts such as Gaster at their word. As it turned out, that statement was technically true. But it was incredibly misleading.

By “fundamental theological doctrines”, he was referring to the Pauline, Greek, version of the Jesus story that was officially adopted in the fourth century by the Catholic Church.[ii]

I would eventually discover that neither Jesus, his followers, or his brother, James who actually lived at that time, shared any of those “fundamental theological doctrines.”[iii]

Dr. Gaster was referring to the basic teachings of Paul, which eventually became the official doctrines of Christianity. But the Jerusalem congregation never accepted the teachings of Paul as “fundamental theological doctrines.” Their beliefs were strikingly similar to those of the community at Qumran.

Like the community at Qumran, the early followers of Jesus became poor as a prerequisite of joining the group. According to the account in the book of Acts, the first step toward acceptance was to divest oneself of everything. The prospective followers sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Acts 2:45.

We are further told that there were not any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:34-35.

This divesting of absolutely everything was not optional. The New Testament later recounts the story of a gentleman named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira who sold everything, but held back some of the proceeds. According to the book of Acts, God struck them both dead on the spot. Acts 5:1-10.

Later Church historians such as Eusebius, would mock these early believers (the Ebionites) for their poverty and for their relinquishment of all earthly possessions. See Ecclesiastical History Book 3, Chapter 27. They called themselves the אביונים (ebionim) (the “poor”). This was exactly the term the Dead Sea Scrolls used to designate the righteous. See for example 1QM Col.13.14. They also spoke of the עדת האביונים (“congregation of the poor”) who will endure the time of distress and be rescued. Col. ii (frags. 1 ii + 2 + 4Q183 3).

Another term the followers of Jesus were known by was the עניי רוח (“poor in spirit”). Matthew 5:3. This too, as Robert Eisenman points out, is a designation found in the War Scroll and in the Community Rule. See Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, Penguin Books, New York. 1992. p. 233. Also see 1QM Col. X.14.7.

Since at least the fourth century when Eusebius wrote his Christian History, the Church has strained to distance itself from the designation the folks who actually knew Jesus wore as a badge of honor. That badge is to be found among the many designations in the Dead Sea Scrolls that suggest a commonality between the two groups – or perhaps even, that they were the same.

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Notes


[i] See Gaster, Theodor H. Trans. The Dead Sea Scriptures in English Translation. New York, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1956. pp.15-19.

[ii] Gaster clarifies this statement by defining the “basic doctrine” of Christianity as the belief that Jesus was God incarnate who died to expiate the sins of mankind. Ibid. p.19.

[iii] For a more complete explanation see my book, The Second Crucifixion of Jesus. Books published by the same author may be found at the author’s blog.

What was The “Other” Gospel?

(Edited version of the article originally published in January 2023)

In the classic Mel Brooks movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin Hood has an important message he wants to convey to the peasants. “Why”, he is asked, should the people of Locksley listen to you?” “Because”, he explains, “unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with a British accent.”

The New Testament writer, Paul, complains of others in his path of communication that were promoting “another Jesus” and “another gospel”, quite different than those of his message. 2 Corinthians 11:4.

Most of us who grew up in Christian households always thought we knew what the New Testament means by “gospel”. We were told that the word, gospel is from the Greek word ευαγγέλιον (euangelion) which simply means “good news”.

We were taught to shrug off Paul’s references to “another gospel” as simply some unknown, obviously false teachings that were going around at the time. Those of us with annotated Bibles read in the comments about so-called “false teachers”, such as Marcion (a guy from the middle of the second century who could not possibly be who Paul was talking about), and other equally undocumented guesses about what those “other gospels” may be.

No one seemed to question the idea that if gospel means “good news”, how could other competing “good news” be so bad? Paul doesn’t tell us. He tells his readers not to listen to it. He characterizes the messengers with a different Jesus and another gospel as false apostles. [1]

A more complete explanation is too complex to elaborate on here. For more details, see my recent book, Revelation and the Antichrist. For now, let us just say that the best way to understand why there were two gospels is to take a closer look at the events that were transpiring at the time.

A lot was going on in the Roman province of Judea in the years immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion (probably either 27 or 30 C.E.).

Before the end of the next decade, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Gaius “Caligula” would become the third emperor of the Roman Empire. Barely three years into his reign, he floated the idea of installing a statue of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fortunately for everyone involved, that idea was quashed. And he was assassinated within the following year.

About ten years after that, Josephus tells us there was a great famine. He also mentions two infamous insurrectionists, James and Simon who were crucified. James and Simon were sons of Judah the Galilean whose movement (which began in about the year Jesus was born) was still going strong (contrary to attempts to minimize it by the author of the book of Acts – see Acts 5:37) and fighting against Roman rule in Judea. See Antiquities of the Jews 20:102.

James and Simon may well have been the “two thieves” whom the Gospel writers tell us were crucified with Jesus. See mark 15:27 and Matthew 27:38.

Josephus also describes a Passover riot that occurred during the time of the Roman procurator, Ventidius Cumanus (circa 48 C.E.). Fearing an uprising of the people, Cumanus had ordered Roman soldiers to pour into the Antonia Fortress at the Temple mount during the festivities. When one of the soldiers mooned the Jewish Passover crowd below, all hell broke loose.

The massive revolt resulted in the slaughter of thousands and turned the otherwise, festive, Passover celebration into a time of great mourning. Antiquities of the Jews 20:105-112.

Oh, and another thing. . . while all of this was going on, Jesus’ brother, James, was stirring the pot by broadcasting the message of his crucified brother, Jesus. His brother’s message is referred to in the New Testament as the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” Mark 1:14-15.

And he was not just harping on this message in Jerusalem. He was sending it out to the Jewish synagogues across Asia Minor. To the Jews (and Jesus’ message was only intended for the Jews – see Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:24), the message was very good news indeed.

But it was not just a proclamation of news. It was a call to action. With it came the exhortation of John the Baptist to the people of Israel to repent and cleanse themselves for the end of Gentile (Roman) rule. The “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Matthew 3:2.

Jesus, like John the Baptist, and like the community who wrote and maintained the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed the time was here for the establishment of the kingdom foretold by the prophet, Ezekiel:

Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side, and I will bring them to their land.

And I will make them into one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be to them all as a king; and they shall no longer be two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore.

And they shall no longer defile themselves with their idols, with their detestable things, or with all their transgressions, and I will save them from all their habitations in which they have sinned, and I will purify them, and they shall be to Me as a people, and I will be to them as a God.

And My servant David shall be king over them, and one shepherd shall be for them all, and they shall walk in My ordinances and observe My statutes and perform them.

And they shall dwell on the land that I have given to My servant, to Jacob, wherein your forefathers lived; and they shall dwell upon it, they and their children and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.

And I will form a covenant of peace for them, an everlasting covenant shall be with them; and I will establish them and I will multiply them, and I will place My Sanctuary in their midst forever.

And My dwelling place shall be over them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me as a people.

And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, Who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.” Ezekiel 37:21-28

Needless to say, a communication to “repent” (return to observing the Torah), in order to prepare for the end of Roman rule was not exactly welcomed by the powers that be. Therefore, a different message began to be written and passed around the synagogues in Asia Minor.

The prevalent message implied war. The Romans were not going to just go away. If they were removed, it would be by force. And they had no intention of going anywhere. What they needed was a Jew of their own. Someone that could get the attention of the Jews in the diaspora with a more sensible pro-Roman message.

They found their carrier pigeon in a Jew who identified himself as a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. He knew his work was cut out for him. He complained that James and his followers were sending a different message all over the place – specifically to Galatia and Corinth.[2]

Using the Greek name, “Paul”, he whined to the Corinthians:

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:4

He protested to the Galatians that:

Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse.” Galatians 1:7-8

Paul’s message, the one he called “my gospel” (Romans 2:16; 16:25) was clear: Honor and obey Rome (Romans 13:1-7); don’t worry about the commandments of the Torah (literally “instruction” which Paul calls “the law”). A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28.

More importantly, Paul’s message is a “gospel of peace”.[3] Everything concerning the kingdom is spiritual – the message is internal rather than external. The opposite of that message is the one Jesus proclaimed, “think not that I came to bring peace on the earth. I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34.

There are no third options mentioned in the New Testament. There are two Jesuses: Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified because he dared to proclaim himself “king of the Jews” (the Messiah who was to restore the Kingdom of David); and Paul’s internal “Christ” that returned from the grave with a message of “hope” that everyone will eventually be “saved” from their own sins. Romans 8:2-24. That Jesus had gone off to heaven.

The the last (and completely Pauline) “gospel” writer John would finally quote Jesus as proclaiming that his kingdom was “not of this world”. John 18:36. In this way, John would reinforce the message that Paul’s Jesus was no longer a threat to Rome.

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Notes


[1] 2 Corinthians 11:13. The problem is that the emissaries from James actually knew the real Jesus, unlike Paul, who never met him. And there is no record or evidence of anyone other than Paul and people that were sent “from James” (Galatians 2:12) talking about Jesus to Jews in Asia Minor in the middle of the first century.

[2] See Galatians 2:12 and 2 Corinthians 3:1-8.

[3] Romans 10:15 quoting from Isaiah 52:7. The King James Version correctly renders the Greek word ειρήνη as “peace”. The existence of this statement must have troubled later English translators. The New American Standard Version switched the word ειρήνη out for “good things”. The New International Version simply ignored it and left it out of its translation. However, both translate the same word correctly (as “peace”) in Revelation 6:4. And all of them translate the word in the quoted passage in Isaiah as “peace”.