The religion Paul invented

Christianity is an invention of Paul of Tarsus. Paul was a Pharisee who devoutly observed the Jewish religious laws. Christianity began as one of the small Jewish sects founded by an end-time prophet who claimed to be the Messiah. Many Jews awaited a messiah. They expected a strong leader who would liberate the Jewish nation. Jesus did not live up to this expectation. Paul was at first a fervent persecutor of the followers of Jesus. But then he received a vision. According to his own words, Jesus appeared to him. It was a turning point in his life and an event that shaped the future of humankind. In his book The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman tries to reconstruct Paul’s reasoning that is the foundation of Christian thinking.

His vision proved to Paul that Jesus still lived as his followers claimed. Jesus had died by crucifixion, so he was resurrected, Paul reasoned. And therefore, he must be the long-awaited Messiah. Following this rationale, Paul ran into theological problems. The Romans had executed Jesus after humiliating him in public. So, why did he have to die? Then Paul came up with an answer. In many religions, people sacrifice animals to please the gods. These animals do not die for their transgressions but to cover for the sins of others.1 And so, Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Paul did not make up that Jesus died for our sins. Christians probably believed that already when Paul joined the movement.2 In the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve apostles.’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) These were the things passed on to him, possibly as a creed.2

And it must have been God’s plan all along to save Her His chosen people in this way, Paul reasoned further, so observing Jewish religious laws is not critical for your salvation, nor do you have to be a Jew. That Jewish religious law is irrelevant is a dramatic change of mind for a former Pharisee, but it may make sense if he knew what had actually transpired. Several prophecies in the Hebrew Bible promise that all peoples in the world will accept the God of the Jews. To Paul, Jesus was the fulfilment of these prophecies. Rejecting all false gods and having faith in Jesus should be enough. Paul believed himself to be God’s missionary to spread the good news as this was also prophesied.1 Paul was a Jewish scholar who knew the Jewish scriptures, while most other Apostles lacked such education. And so, he could shape the theology of the early Church.

Paul dedicated his life to spreading the good news that faith in Jesus can save everyone. During his many travels, he founded Christian communities. His mission was not easy. The Jews often expelled him from their synagogues. But he was determined, and he worked hard. Paul’s universal message of personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ that is open to everyone appeared to have been attractive. It allowed Christianity to become a major world religion. Another, perhaps more important reason for people to convert to Christianity during the first centuries, were stories about miracles Christians performed.1 But Christianity never became a success with the Jews.

There have been several contending versions of Christianity. The most well-known are the Nazarenes, the Marcionists, the Ebionites, and the Arians. They all derived their teachings from the scriptures that appear to contradict themselves. The Nazarenes continued to observe the Jewish religious laws. Jesus probably did not intend to abolish them either. The Marcionists preached that the benevolent God of the Gospel who sent Jesus Christ into the world as the saviour is the true Supreme Being opposed to the evil creator God of the Old Testament. Indeed, God may not have been the deity the Jews imagined. The Ebionites claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was human and the last prophet before the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. They did not believe that Jesus was divine, nor did they think that he was born from a virgin. Jesus might have agreed. And Arians claimed that Jesus Christ, even though he was the Son of God, did not exist from the beginning of Creation.

For centuries, Christianity was in a state of flux, but Christian theology was gradually taking shape. There were several contradictions to deal with. For instance, Christians believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. And Jesus is God but the Father is also God. They are not the same but there is only one God. The Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the favoured religion of the Roman Empire. He oversaw the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the first effort to attain consensus about a uniform Christian doctrine. Constantine had invited the bishops of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire. More efforts to establish an official doctrine and a canon of scriptures were to follow. The Roman state promoted the official teachings so that the other strains of Christianity faded into obscurity.

The four Gospels of the New Testament probably were written between 70 and 95 AD, more than forty years after Jesus preached. The Apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, most likely never wrote them. Scholars believe that they are based on collections of stories that were circulating. Storytelling is extremely inaccurate if nothing is written down. The authors of many letters of the Church Fathers are not the people those letters claim either. And we do not have the original texts of the New Testament. There are only copies made centuries later. Scholars have used these copies to reconstruct the original texts as much as possible.

Paul became a follower of Jesus early on. He came to know Jesus’ disciples who were first-hand witnesses of the events that had taken place. Paul probably would not have dared to deviate too much from what he believed to be the truth. He had been a devout Pharisee and was a knowledgable scholar of the Jewish scriptures, so it is not far-fetched to presume that Paul intended to bring his own epiphany and the beliefs of Jesus’ followers in line with the Jewish religion and scriptures. Paul may have had help, but it is fair to say that he invented Christianity. His view that Christianity is not only for the Jews but for everyone won out. And he may have obfuscated what he thought to be the most troubling elements of the new religion so that we may find only traces of them in the writings of the Church Fathers and the Gospels.

Featured image: Head of St. Paul. Mosaic in the Archbishop’s Chapel, Ravenna, 5th century AD (public domain)

1. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Bart D. Ehrman (2018).
2. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher. Bart D. Ehrman (2014). HarperCollins Publishers.

Jesus and Minas Coptic icon dating from 6th or 7th century

From Jesus to Christianity

An enigma

Understanding Jesus of Nazareth and Christianity requires understanding the time and place in which Jesus lived and Christianity emerged. But that may not be enough. Christianity is more enigmatic than Judaism and Islam. Jesus may have believed he was the Son of God and that he had eternal life. Muhammad and the Jewish prophets did not view themselves in this way. This universe could be a virtual reality created by an advanced humanoid civilisation. Therefore, we might exist for entertainment and it may not be an accident that the religions of the God of Abraham came to dominate the planet.

Jesus seemed to have believed that he had a special relationship with God that no other prophet ever had. He may have thought that he had eternal life and a bond with God from the beginning of Creation until the End Of Times. Jesus may have had his reasons for these remarkable beliefs for 2,000 years later he turned out to be the founder of a religion with 2.2 billion followers. Also 1.8 billion Muslims believe he will return. It is an enigma that remains to be explained, unless you assume that Jesus was delusional and that the spread of Christianity and Islam were just historical accidents.

Apart from an historical account, a plausible explanation for Jesus’ beliefs may be needed to understand Jesus as well as the spread of Christianity and Islam. The earliest extant sources of Christianity were written decades after the alleged death of Jesus. Early Christians depended on oral traditions and writings that do no longer exist. Oral recounting is notoriously inaccurate and there is evidence of redactions in the New Testament. And so scholars agree on very little about Jesus of Nazareth, except that he really existed and preached for a few years around 25 AD.

In search of the Jesus of history

The German scholar Hermann Samuel Reimarus realised there is a difference between what Jesus did and preached and what his followers came to believe about him. Around 1760 AD Reimarus was the first to investigate the historical Jesus. He claimed that Jesus could only be understood in the context of first-century Judaism and that Jesus was a typical Jewish apocalyptic prophet of his time.1 For instance, in Matthew Jesus claimed that he didn’t come to abolish the Jewish laws or the prophets:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.2

This statement from Jesus clearly differs from the teachings of Christianity. There are several other discrepancies. This raised questions for scholars to work on in the centuries that followed. They were in search of the historical Jesus and tried to deal with questions like who was Jesus and how can his teachings and the beliefs of early Christians be explained in the context of first-century Judaism?

Reimarus was influenced by the Deists who believed there is a Creator and that there should be a rational explanation for religion. The Creator has defined the laws of nature and therefore has no need for the supernatural. The Deists also claimed that the universal religion of the future should emerge from rational explanation rather than revelation. Revelation is without evidence and can never be credible to everyone.

Jesus and the early Christians were influenced by Jewish traditions like the Pharisees and the Sadducees but also by Greek culture and philosophy. Other religions already had concepts like virgin birth and sons of god. Scholars nowadays surmise that Christianity took over those concepts but it remains an mystery why Jesus seemed to have believed that he was God’s immortal son and why he was called the Bridegroom.

It also remains a mystery why Jesus was so respectful of women. Jewish culture in the first century was decidedly patriarchal. Some Jewish writers of Jesus’ time, such as Philo, taught that women should never leave the home except to go to the synagogue.3 Jesus spoke to women in public.4 He was also compassionate for women and respected their dignity, even when they were sinful.5 In doing so Jesus ignored traditional Jewish law. Plausible explanations for his conduct have yet to be found.

The missing link

The missing link in the research of the scholars is God. Science doesn’t assume anything about God and for good reason. But if this universe is created by an advanced humanoid civilisation for entertainment then leaving God out of the picture would be a serious flaw while researching the origin of religions. Perhaps God is a real person from this advanced civilisation who can use avatars to appear like an ordinary human to us.

Including God in the explanation can solve a few mysteries. Mary Magdalene may have been an avatar of God. She may have made Jesus believe that she was the reincarnation of Eve and he was the reincarnation of Adam. She may have told Jesus that Eve was not made out of Adam’s rib but that Adam was born as the first son of Eve. Jesus was son of God because Adam was and because he was Adam’s reincarnation. In this way Eve is Mother of all the living and Christians are born of God.

Who was Mary Magdalene?

Mary Magdalene has become a bit of a cult figure as there is a lot of mystery surrounding her. She may have been the most important person in Jesus’ life.

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This is an explanation that doesn’t require revelation. The technology to make virtual realities and the romantic desires of women in combination with the available evidence in the scriptures can make it appear plausible. There is evidence suggesting that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, even though it is never explicitly stated that he was.

The identity of God

The Gospels state that Jesus had a personal and intimate relationship with God. Scholars agree that the Gospels have been edited.

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The prophet Muhammad married his boss Khadijah. He remained her loyal servant, and perhaps in more than one way. Like Jesus, Muhammad may have been married to God.

Khadijah, mother of the believers

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was a wealthy merchant and Muhammad’s employer. Muhammad was twenty-five and Khadijah was forty when she proposed to him. Their marriage was both happy and monogamous.

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According to the Jewish scriptures God ordered Abraham to grant the wishes of his wife Sarah. Hence, Sarah may have been an avatar of God. Even though historical evidence for their existence is lacking, several Jewish prophets may have been married to God.

Sarah, mother of the Jews

The will of God coincided with the wishes of Sarah several times. God summoned Hagar to return to her mistress Sarah and God told Abraham to send Hagar away when Sarah wanted this.

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Paul’s role

Paul of Tarsus turned Christianity from an obscure Jewish sect into a religion with a universal appeal. He modified Christianity so that it was not only meant for the Jews, but for everyone. Theological foundation may have been that Eve is the Mother of everyone. To that aim Paul made several compromises, for instance that gentiles didn’t have to follow all the rules of the Jewish religion. Paul also was a Roman citizen and could travel freely throughout the Roman Empire. This allowed Christianity to spread but it made Paul a controversial figure with Jewish Christians. Over time the gentile Christians began to outnumber the Jews so that Paul’s views won out.

Paul and his followers may have tried to resolve the conflicts between existing fractions of Christians with a unifying theology. On the one hand they brought Christianity more in line with the Jewish theology by making God male and invisible. This might have prompted him to make Jesus the Bridegroom of the Church instead of the Bridegroom of God. By referring to the Jewish concept of God being married to Israel, and replacing Israel by the Church, Jesus may have become deified in this new theology. Jesus being married to God may also explain why Christians believe that God is love.

God is love

There is an explanation why Christians believe that God is love. Only, there may be something very troubling about this love.

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Paul may have turned Jesus into a god who sacrificed himself for his bride who in a sense was also his mother as he was believed to be the reincarnation of Adam and Mary Magdalene was believed to be the reincarnation of the Mother Goddess Eve.

Mother Goddess Eve

According to the Bible Eve was called ‘mother of all the living’ by Adam before they had any children. It is also odd that Eve was made out of the rib of Adam. Eve may have ben a Mother Goddess and Adam may have been Her son.

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Paul came from Tarsus where the mother goddess Cybele was worshipped. Her husband was also her son, a shepherd named Attis. Attis castrated himself as a sacrifice to her. Attis’ self-mutilation, death and resurrection represent the fruits of the earth which die in winter only to rise again in the spring. The parallels between Attis and Jesus, the Good Shepherd, may have inspired Paul to apply an Attis-like imagery to Jesus.

At the time the gospels were written most first-hand witnesses were gone and different stories were circulating. It may therefore have been possible for the Church Fathers to destroy or modify texts that didn’t fit in the new narrative. The Gospels do not suggest that the Bride Of Christ was the Church. It may not have been Paul who brought his up. Ephesians, the letter in which this idea is introduced, appears to have been written a decade after Paul’s death by one of his followers. The modifications in the gospels were probably done in several stages over several decades.

Gospel of John

The Gospel of John differs from the other gospels. For instance, it contains the phrase ‘born of God’, suggesting that God could be a Mother. Is is also the gospel in which Jesus calls his mother ‘woman’. That makes sense if the word ‘mother’ was reserved for God. This gospel also contains a few references to a Beloved Disciple. And the gospel suggests that there had been rumours that the Beloved Disciple was immortal.

Born of God

The phrase ‘born of God’ can be found in the Gospels and the letters of the Church Fathers. It is now believed to have a spiritual meaning but the origin may have been quite different. The God of Christianity could be a woman.

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The Gospel of John is believed to have been written around 100 AD but it contains some historical accuracies not found in the other gospels that contradict this late date. Therefore this gospel might have been based on an earlier source written by a first-hand witness.1 Scholars believe the Gospel of John has been redacted three times.

Perhaps the role of Mary Magdalene has been changed from God into the Beloved Disciple in the first redaction. In a subsequent redaction the evidence of Mary Magdalene being the Beloved Disciple may have been removed. And a third redaction may have been needed to tie up some loose ends. The Gospel of John may have been part of an early distinct tradition in Christianity in which God was a Mother.

Featured image: Jesus and Minas Coptic icon dating from 6th or 7th century. Clio20 (Anonymous). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Jesus Christ: The Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith. J.R. Porter (1999). Duncan Baird Publishers
2. Matthew 5:17-18 [link]
3. Jesus’ Extraordinary Treatment of Women. Franciscan Media. [link]
4. Luke 7:11-17 [link]
5. Luke 7:36-50 [link], John 8:3-11 [link]

God is love

Christians believe that God is love. Only, there may be something about this love that the church fathers found to be so troubling that they didn’t want us to know about it. If you know what it is, Christianity may suddenly make a lot more sense, and you may be able to guess what the future religion will look like. Love is such a central theme in Christianity that this religion came to be known as the religion of love. According to the Gospel, Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”1

Paul is believed to be the author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. It probably was written around 54 AD. There is little doubt that Paul wrote this letter himself, except for a passage claiming that women have a subordinate role in the church, which most scholars believe to be a later addition. This letter is one of the earliest written sources of Christianity. It contains a remarkable poem:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.2

According to Paul, love is more important than faith and good works. But why? Christians believe the answer is:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.3

Christians believe in eternal life. Jesus may have died on the cross but Christians believe he still lives because God loves the world. The author of the Gospel of John, who probably was not the Apostle John according to several scholars, may also have written the First Epistle of John, but scholars do not agree on that either. In this epistle the author shares his views on the love of God:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.4

If you are not a Christian, you might wonder why this was necessary? The idea that God loves us, and the proof being that God sent his one and only son into the world as a sacrifice for our sins, does not make a lot of sense. Christians claim that Adam sinned and that we are all cursed for that, but then came Jesus who allowed himself to be crucified so that we can be saved. It seems that God could easily have chosen another path.

Jews and Muslims do not believe that God has a son. They also do not believe that Adam’s transgression requires such a sacrifice. When God allegedly ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and Abraham was about to comply, God allegedly called it off. So what might justify this? There may be something about the relationship between God and Jesus that is removed from the scriptures. The odds are that it has something to do with love because that is what Christianity is all about. Ephesians gives a possible clue:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.5

Christians believe that Jesus was married to the church because of this verse. There is an issue with this view, apart from it being unusual. The church did not exist when Jesus lived. It is inconsistent in time. A historian would call it an anachronism. The verse suggests that this was a love like in a marriage. The Gospels imply that Jesus was married6 but the identity of the bride is never mentioned. And the verse claims that husbands have to love their wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, a peculiar thought.

There is a possible explanation. God could be a woman. This universe could be a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation to entertain someone we call God. And God could use avatars in Her own story and appear like an ordinary human to us. The love the Gospels expound on is the love of God. Hence, the bride may have been God. The phrase ‘born of God’ in the Gospel of John indicates that God could be a woman. The Jewish God appearing in a human form as a woman may have been a difficult theological issue the early church fathers had to deal with.

The most likely candidate for being the avatar of God is Mary Magdalene. She may have convinced Jesus that she was the reincarnation of Eve and that he was the reincarnation of Adam and that Eve was not made out of a rib of Adam but that Adam was a son of Eve. And so Jesus may have believed he had eternal life and would not die. Perhaps this can shed some light on Jesus’ views on marriage. It appears that Jesus believed marriage to be a bond forged by God:

Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.” So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.7

At this point Jesus deviated from Moses’ law:

Because of your hard hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives. It was not like that from the beginning.9

That is remarkable because Jesus claimed he was not going to abolish Moses’ law. Jesus’ followers argued it would be hard for men to love their wives in this way. Jesus replied:

Not all men are able to do this, but only those to whom it has been given.10

Jesus appeared to have had a high standard on marriage. Surviving records of Jesus’ words and teachings suggest that Jesus believed women to be equal to men. The equality of the sexes appears peculiar within the context of a patriarchal society. Paul also saw women as equal partners in the Christian movement. The Didache, an early Christian text dating from the first century, implies equality of the sexes.

At some point, patriarchy has been re-established. The letters of the early church father may have been rewritten for that reason. For instance, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been added later.10 It claims that the man is the head of the family. A similar claim is made in the First Epistle to Timothy.11 Scholars believe this letter was written later on and not by Paul like the letter claims.

A woman might like to see a man sacrifice himself to prove his love for her. And you may never love God enough. Christians see Jesus as a sacrificial lamb.12 It appears that God didn’t even care for Jesus. So if someone ever finds himself in the same position as Jesus may have found himself in, he might at first not be enticed by the proposition, until he accepts that he has no choice and might well be the luckiest man that ever existed. In any case, it isn’t that hard to love someone who has taken you hostage and has complete control over you. It is a natural reaction known as the Stockholm Syndrome.

Featured image: SpongeBob SquarePants. Nickelodeon. [copyright info]

1. Mark 12:30-31 [link]
2. 1 Corinthians 13 [link]
3. John 3:16 [link]
4. 1 John 4:7-10 [link]
5. Ephesians 5:25 [link]
6. John 3:29 [link], Matthew 9:15 [link], Mark 2:19 [link], Luke 5:34 [link]
7. Matthew 19:4-6  [link]
8. Matthew 19:8 [link]
9. Matthew 19:12 [link]
10. Forgery and Counter forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Bart D. Ehrman (2013).
11. 1 Timothy 2:12 [link]
12. 1 Peter 1:18-19 [link]

Lucretia Garfield. Library Of Congres

The identity of God

We may live inside a virtual reality created by an advanced humanoid civilisation for the personal entertainment of an individual who is God to us. God could be like us in many ways and use an avatar to appear as an ordinary human in this world. The entertainment thus could be playing roles in God’s imaginary world. And we may best understand God in this way. Hence, the deities and religions humans have made up tell us little about God. Still, Judaism stood at the cradle of Christianity and Islam, and that may not be a mere historical accident. And so, avatars of God may be present in the Bible.

Archaeological evidence does not corroborate the narrative in the Hebrew Bible from before the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Jesus has lived and preached even though there a lot of uncertainty about what he did and what he preached. Scholars believe that Jesus was just one of the many end-time prophets of his time. According to the Gospel, Jesus had a close personal bond with God. We can infer this from writings that may reflect his own words. And so, Jesus may have known the avatar of God.

That may explain why Jesus stood at the cradle of Christianity, nowadays a global religion with more than two billion followers. That is a most remarkable turn of history. The message of Christianity is that God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to sacrifice himself for our sins. And this can save us from hell if we accept him as our saviour. That begs for an explanation. Six centuries later, in an astounding turn of history, a small band of Arab warriors created an empire stretching from the Atlantic to India, spreading Islam. Nowadays, Islam has close to two billion followers. And God allegedly promised Abraham that all peoples on Earth are to be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).

Apart from the Son of God, Jesus was also called the Bridegroom, but the identity of the Bride is unknown. Being the Bridegroom appears to have been his mission and the Kingdom of God is compared to a wedding banquet. Christians believe that the Church is Jesus’ bride. There was no Church at the time Jesus was preaching so this is an anachronism. Perhaps Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and maybe a wedding of the Son of God to an ordinary woman was deemed inappropriate. Another explanation is that Mary Magdalene was God. She may have convinced Jesus that She was the reincarnation of Eve and that Jesus was Adam, and that they were an eternal couple from the beginning of creation until the end of times.

That would have raised controversy as it is at odds with the the Jewish scriptures. Christianity may have been shaped by dealing with this issue. The evidence of a controversy is still visible in the Gospels. The Gospel of John has a very distinct character and theology that is absent in the other Gospels. Scholars agree that the Gospels and the letters of the Church Fathers are edited. The Gospel of John adds a few insights into the nature of this controversy. Christians are born of God (John 1:12-13). Hence, God could be a Mother. And Jesus felt that he had an eternal bond with God and that he existed from the beginning (John 14:6).

Jesus may have believed that he was a reincarnation of Adam, that Mary Magdalene was a reincarnation of Eve, and that Eve did not come from Adam’s rib, but that Eve gave birth to Adam. There is evidence for these claims in the scriptures. Eve is called Mother of All the Living (Genesis 3:20), Adam is named Son of God (Luke 3:38) while Jesus is the Firstborn of all Creation (Colossians 1:15). And so, Adam may have been born. It makes no sense that the woman came from the rib of the man. It is more natural that the woman gave birth to the man. It makes sense but the Jewish scriptures and Greek thought provide us with alternative explanations.

Initially Christianity might have been about the marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus representing the Kingdom of God. The love of God Jesus was speaking of (John 17:23-26) may have been the love of a Goddess for her husband. This could explain why Christians believe that God is love (1 John 4:16). It sheds another light on Jesus’ assertion that he is one with God (John 10:30) as marriage is the usual way to become one flesh with another person (Mark 10:8, Matthew 19:5).11 It can clarify why Christian marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. Judaism and Islam do not sanctify the institution of marriage in the way Christianity does.

Christianity probably at first had a distinct creation myth and fall story. It may not be an accident that the Quran differs from Genesis on these matters. The Quran describes the creation of Adam extensively but tells little about how Eve came into being. The Quran claims that Jesus and Adam were both made from dust (Quran 3:59). As the Quran corroborates that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin (Quran 3:47), Adam may have been born from a virgin too. The Quran further blames Adam for the Fall while leaving Eve out of the picture (Quran 10:115-121). It does not include the account of Eve convincing Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit. It is however merely a matter of emphasis. The Quran does not contradict the Bible on these matters.

Abraham, the mythical founder of Judaism, was married to Sarah. In family affairs, God consistently sided with Sarah, the Hebrew Bible tells us. And Egypt was beset by plagues when the Pharaoh tried to make Sarah his wife. There is no evidence that Abraham has ever lived, but even if he did, the story about his life is probably a myth, as it was written down over a thousand years after he allegedly had lived. But at least this myth is consistent with God being a woman who can have human avatars. Sarah could have been an avatar of God. And we cannot know that Mary Magdalene was an avatar of God either, even though She, unlike Sarah, probably has lived. At this point, Islamic accounts come to the rescue, making it a more convincing case.

The stories about the life of Muhammad probably are reliable, at least for the purpose at hand. At the age of twenty-five, Muhammad married his boss, the merchant Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid. She was a widow and fifteen years his senior when She proposed to him. Their marriage was both happy and monogamous. Only after Khadijah had died did Muhammad marry other women. Khadijah was the first to convert to Islam immediately after Muhammad received his first vision, which is odd as She was still his superior to the point that Muhammad depended on Her rather than the other way around. Her support was invaluable to Muhammad’s mission, and Islam would not have existed without Her. One can imagine no plausible political or religious agenda for misrepresenting the facts in this way. So, if God did have human avatars, then Khadijah probably was one of them. Women hardly ever were boss over their husbands in seventh-century Arabia, so the odds that the founder of Islam has found himself in this position by accident appears close to zero. Avatars of God may have played a significant role in world history. And God could still be dwelling among us today.

Featured image: Lucretia Garfield. Library Of Congres.