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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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]

Happiness

The point of technological development and social change

What is the point of technological development and social change? Why do we have agriculture, cities, writing, money, empires, science, industry, human rights and democracy? This universe does not exist to please us. The same applies to technological advances and social changes. These things do not happen to make us happier. For instance, humans switched to agriculture because agriculture can feed more people. And so farmers soon outnumbered hunter-gatherers, but the lives of farmers were miserable compared to hunter-gatherers.1 Private property, individual rights, and independent courts emerged and spread because countries that had them came to dominate the planet. It is survival of the fittest, not our well being, that drives history.

Technological advances happen because investors expect to profit from new technologies or because governments see some use in them. And so scientists fetch budgets for their research and get busy. Efficiency considerations do the rest. More efficient designs win out. Making people happier may be a side-effect, but not necessarily so.

Social reforms can make people happier, but it is a lot harder than you might think. For example, equal rights for women and minorities and many other social justice issues have a long history of struggle that persists until today. Cultural differences are often an underlying cause of these issues. For instance, liberals from the city and conservatives in the countryside live in different realities.

And so social reforms do not necessarily make people happier. If there is a social norm, for example of the man being the head of the family, then conservative women may be quite happy with this arrangement. Introducing feminist ideas can produce tensions and women may not always become happier as a result, let alone men. Perhaps, propaganda can make them their minds, but that does not guarantee that they will be happier.

So what makes people happy? It is an important question. There are several issues that seem to have an effect on our sense of happiness:

  • chemical processes in the body
  • human needs
  • money
  • expectations
  • desires
  • having a sense of purpose
  • the social and political environment

Chemical processes in the body

Some people are always happy despite adversity and poor living conditions. Other people are always bitter even when they prosper and have no serious problems. That has something to do with chemical processes in the body. If happiness is about chemical processes in the body then making people happy is about inventing the right pills and distributing them. Indeed pills can help to end a depression. Many people believe that pills give a false sense of happiness. Still, more and more people take pills to feel better.

maslovpiramid
Maslov’s hierarchy of human needs

Hierarchy of human needs

Abraham Maslow came up with a hierarchy of human needs. He thought that basic needs such as food and shelter are paramount. Only when these needs are fulfilled, you desire security. Maslow believed that if you do not have food, security is of secondary importance, and if you have food and security, love and attention become more important. And if you have all that, you want to be respected and have a sense of purpose in your life. And even though the hierarchy is contested, the needs Maslow identified are not.

Money

Does money make you happier? A lot of research has gone into this question. The results are not very surprising. If you are poor, then more money will probably make you happier. Poor people worry about making ends meet. As soon as you can buy the things you need, and have no financial worries, the picture becomes confusing. In that case more money can make you happier, but only if you spend it right. What is right is a personal matter. So if you have the money, you should go on that vacation or go to that concert, but only if that is what you really want to do.

Expectations

Expectations can be important. If you expect to get a small car, and you get a medium sized car instead, your expectations are exceeded. That can make you happy for a while. But if you expected to get a big car, and you get the same medium sized car, your expectations are not met. And that can make you sad for a while. In both cases it is the same car. If you expected less, you are happy with the car, but if you expected more, the same car makes you feel bad. People tend to adapt to a new situation so after a while the happiness or the sadness from missed expectations is gone. Lowering expectations is a possible path to happiness.

Similarly, if you are better off than your peers, it can give you satisfaction. Alternatively, if you are worse off it can displease you. Happiness can depend on the people you compare yourself to. The attention given to celebrities, their riches, and their beautiful husbands and wives can give you the unpleasant feeling that you have to keep up with them. This can make you go to the gym or the plastic surgeon and buy things you can’t afford and turn down potential spouses who aren’t rich or don’t look so great. The advertisement industry makes use of this by trying to make us unhappy so that we will buy more stuff. It can also explain why people in more equal societies are happier on average.

buddha
Rock cut seated Buddha statue, Andhra Pradesh, India

Craving

Gautama Buddha also weighed in on the issue. He lived 2,500 years ago and was the founder of Buddhism. You may have seen a statue or a picture of him because his image has become quite popular in recent decades. Buddha taught that people are always craving for temporary feelings and things. This craving causes a permanent state of dissatisfaction. As soon as you have achieved a desired feeling, for example love, or acquired a desired object, for example a car, you will start to crave for something else. That probably sounds familiar.

Buddha also taught that this craving will tie us up in this world so that our souls will continue to reincarnate and suffer from craving. Only when we stop craving and disengage ourselves from this world, we can disappear into nothingness, which he believed to be a state of eternal peace.  This type of happiness is a tranquillity can cause by detachment from mundane affairs that may come close to not caring.

Meaning

If you think that your life has meaning that can make you happy. Religious people may be happier than atheists because they believe that they play a role in the great cosmic scheme of God while atheists may believe that their life has no purpose. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman came up with a similar conclusion. He researched a group of women and interviewed them about their daily activities, and which activities gave them pleasure. He also asked the women what made them happy.

Caring for their children were amongst the activities that gave them the least pleasure. But when he asked these women what made them the most happy they answered that their children made them the most happy. Perhaps the children gave meaning to their lives. Perhaps these women were just deluding themselves. Similarly, if you think that your job is important, that may give meaning to your life, but that can be a delusion too. If you didn’t do your job, someone else probably would. Such delusions can make us happy so it may not be so bad to have them.

Social and political reforms

If we contemplate social reforms we might need to ask ourselves: “Will they make us happier?” Perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from social and political institutions in this respect. That doesn’t mean improvements aren’t worthwhile. If they don’t matter then it doesn’t matter where you live. So why do so many immigrants come to Europe or to the United States? Most immigrants try to escape poverty or they flee for oppressive regimes.

Perhaps people in Africa and South America learn about the life in Europe or the United States and become dissatisfied because they are worse off. Whatever their motives might be, it appears that prosperity and social institutions do matter, and that is why it can be a good idea to engage in social and political reforms, and to aim for the highest standards everywhere around the globe, so that life in Africa and South America is as good as it is in Western Europe.

In developed countries the role of the state and the market economy increased at the expense of the family and the community. This can cause alienation and stress as humans have evolved to live in small groups of kins, not in the anonymity of the state and the market. So developed countries may have to change too. Reducing the role of governments and markets may require enlarging the role of communities and families. Life in communities and families wasn’t ideal either so people may not always become happier as a consequence.

Pictures:
– Rock cut seated Buddha statue, Andhra Pradesh, India CC BY-SA 3.0. Adityamadhav83. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22764139