death and zombies

Genesis: Death and Zombies.

Genesis: Death and Zombies.

Christians, Muslims and Jews often miss a very important point, the Bible doesn’t say very much about death – certainly not enough to support three religions. In a video lecture entitled ‘Five Big Words from Genesis that shaped Ancient Hebrew Thought’, Professor James Tabor made a very interesting point: that when Genesis says you´re dead, you stay dead and he’s right – or is he?

In fact, when you start looking, it is obvious that the writers of Genesis were very careful exactly how much they said, or didn’t say, about death. Why you may ask!

Well Hebrew spirituality wasn’t born in a vacuum. As it turns out, Genesis was written as a visceral rejection of the Egyptian class-based obsession with death. In many ways the Egyptian religion was a death cult; it was only the rich who got to live beyond death. The Hebrew people wrote the Torah to put the story straight.

But here’s the thing, you can’t read the book of Genesis literally – you can’t take what it says at face value. How do I know?

Because Genesis tells you, right at the beginning, that you must look deeper than the words. The Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki ) noted, in 11th Century France, that the first word of Genesis, b’reshit, cannot be explained – it shouldn’t be there.

Which begs the question, why does the oldest, most accurately, and most often, copied book in the world contain a grammatical error in the first word that is untranslatable and is obviously a grammatical mess.

Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser wrote a wonderful blog on this subject that you can read HERE and he renders the words (B’reishit bara Elohim)  thus: “In the beginning of the beginning that is always beginning, God created the creation that is still.”

I would argue that the Elohist writer of Genesis 1 put this grammatical error into the text at precisely this point because he is telling the reader, right at the beginning, to look deeper than the text. Please bear this in mind as we proceed.

Before humans are even mentioned in Genesis, the writer makes it clear that even fish are alive (hai’yah – a thing that has life) and it is the Nephesh of that fish that has life. What is the Nephesh you may ask – where does it come from? It has often been translated as ‘Soul’ but this is problematic. When we say ‘Soul’ people think of an invisible ‘you’ that exists eternally; this is a view familiar to Greeks and to Hindus but this was precisely not what the Hebrews were saying. The word Nephesh ‘kind-of’ means breath and humans have the same Nephesh as the animals.

But ‘To Breathe’ or ‘Breathing’ is not all the word means – the implication is ‘An Entity or Creature’.

In Genesis 2, a later Yahwist writer expands on the concept of the creation of humans and tell us that the breath of life comes directly from the breath of God. In other words the essence of life is the essence of God.

“And he is forming, Yahweh/Elohim the human from the soil from the ground and he is blowing into his nostrils the breath of life and he is becoming a human living entity.”

You need to hold onto this idea; the idea that the essence of life is the essence of God because it will become important.

Some scholars have tried to say that it is only the breath that is alive and when we stop breathing we are just dead – ‘end of’.

Indeed, it was this view that I grew up with over a half century ago.

It has been a popular view amongst Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars that the Jewish Bible holds a monistic view of human life; that man is not composed of two elements (body and soul) but that man is rather a psycho-physical organism. Indeed, this view is popular among atheists and Neo-Darwinian Evolutionists today. They think that we are just temporary machines – which in Hebrew is Golem but Golems lack self-awareness – they lack the ability to choose between Good and Evil. For more on this subject, read this BOOK.

It must also be noted that the Hebrew people were not idiots; they knew that babies are alive before they take their first breath and similarly they knew that we don’t just end.

Professor Herbert Chanan Brichto said, “Why has a millennium and more of good Bible scholarship failed to discern the basic view of afterlife permeating Scripture? For the biblical evidence for immortality presents a model of the afterlife which would have constituted a rebuttal of resurrection.

The metaphor of God breathing into clay is an answer to the question, ‘How do we live’ – we are dead clay animated by the essence of God – our life is God’s life.

This is further demonstrated by the word Ga`va at the end of life, “He breathed out his life” with the clarification “to return to his people.” Obviously, the writer could easily have said, “He just died” if he wanted to.

In the book of Koheleth (The Teacher – Ecclesiastes) it says: “And the Dust returns to the Earth (and leaves it) as it was, and the life-force (Ruach) returns to God who gave it.”

It is evident that the Hebrew understanding of life was not just an idea entirely focused on the self as was the Hindu, Egyptian and Persian concepts of the ‘Soul’ or ‘Self’. Rather the Hebrew understanding is that all life is a part of, and expression of, the essence of God. This fundamentally changes our relationships with ourselves and the world around us.

In 1 Samuel 28:11-14, King Saul goes to woman who could summon the dead and spoke to the ghost of Samuel. This story rests on three pillars:

  1. Hebrew people, at that time, accepted the idea of life after death.
  2. Hebrew people, at that time, accepted the idea that it was theoretically possible to speak with the dead.
  3. The proscription of the practice was based on the fact that it worked – not that it didn’t work.

It is evident then that the Hebrew people had a much more nuanced understanding of life, and of life before/after death, than people may realise but what is also evident is that they were deeply aware of the danger of building our life on the idea of a life to come.

We can conclude then that the Book of Genesis was specifically written to guide the Hebrew people toward a life-based, life-affirming religion as opposed to the Death obsession of the Egyptians and the nihilism of the Persians.

Unfortunately, this rather profound and subtle understanding of life and death did not really satisfy the Hebrew people of the Second Century BCE after suffering one invasion after another. No longer were they going to accept the blame for all the suffering of the Jewish people based on their ‘supposed’ sin. The Scribes had to come up with a more palatable story – and boy did they!

Sometime around the Second Century BCE, the Pharisee sect came up with the idea of the Resurrection of the Dead. They blended this absurd belief onto the already existing belief in the appearance of a Jewish Superman they called the ‘Moshiach’ – a military leader who would save Judah and establish a physical Judean hegemony over the whole world. In this Armageddon part II, the Jewish dead would rise out of the graves and live again.

Unfortunately, the introduction of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead re-introduced the human preoccupation with death and the promise of the next life, which was why so many Hebrew religious teachers rejected it.

Professors Funk, Borg and Crossan, of the Jesus Seminar, concluded that the Jesus of History, like other prominent Hebrew religious leaders in the early first century CE, did not believe in the Resurrection of the Dead.

Indeed, the Jesus of History’s teaching conformed to the essence of the Torah and tried to push people to focus on this life and not speculate on death and the life to come. He said, “Have you found the beginning that now you look for the end?”

Of course, the concept of the physical resurrection of the dead is ridiculous and this doctrine alone has singlehandedly created billions of atheists over the years. My own father, a convert to Catholicism, was terrified to have a medical procedure as it would mean the removal of a body part, “What will I do at the Resurrection?” he whimpered.

So was Professor Tabor right? Do we die and then stay dead until the Last Day and the Resurrection of the Dead?

To be honest, you could read the text and find whatever answer you like and people do every day. But I would argue that, if you read the Hebrew original and try to understand it, the only philosophical paradigm that is consistent with the earliest Hebrew texts is the paradigm contained within the Q-Source that we call the words of the Jesus of History.

In the modern world, we think ourselves so clever. Some Muslims blow themselves up because they are convinced that they will get paradise when they are resurrected. Christians are convinced that the world is a maximum security prison and only they have an escape plan. Buddhists see life as a cheap package holiday; they just want to go home and never come back – given the chance they will just stay in their hotel room for the rest of their lives. Atheists believe that life is an accident and they are their own god.

So maybe, just maybe, the writers of the Book of Genesis were much smarter than we think! When the Pharisees introduced the idea of the Resurrection, they did not realise the hell on Earth they were bequeathing to the world.

The Evil of Saint Paul

The Evil of Saint Paul

The Evil of Saint Paul

Recently, somebody (a kind and gentle person) asked me about Saint Paul and, to be honest, I am not sure what they were more frightened of: that the Resurrection was true or that it was a lie. What makes things even worse, they felt too frightened to even look for themselves.

By any sane measure, a spiritual teaching, which motivates people through fear, cannot be called anything but an abomination and the twin abominations of ‘Original Sin and Vicarious Sacrifice’ were born in the tortured mind of Saint Paul.

In order to explain what I mean, we must ask a question, “Why does a liar lie?”

All lies are told in order to manipulate and the lies of Saint Paul were designed to create fear in you. It was Saint Paul who taught the concept of original sin – the idea that we all damned at birth – in order to justify the next big lie: the idea that belief in a specific human sacrifice could save us from original sin. The motivation for the lie is obvious, if you take the time to read Paul’s letters in their entirety, you will see for yourself his preoccupation with financial donations. His motivation is also obvious: financial gain. The whole Christ cult was a donation scam, no different than Black Lives Matter.

Saint Paul wrote his letters sometime before 62 CE and it is his first letter to his Pauline converts in the Greek city of Corinth that seems to most concern my young friend. Here is the offending passage:

1 Moreover, I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you have stood.

2 through which also you are saved, if you hold fast with what word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you, among the first things, that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures;

4 and that he was buried; and that he rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures;

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

6 After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain till now, but some have also fallen asleep.

7 After that he appeared to James, after that to all the apostles.

8 But, last of all, as to the one born out of due time, he appeared to me also.

1 Corinthians 15

 

Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter what I say about Christian belief. Why? Because 99.9% of Christians are incapable of hearing any  idea they don’t already have and they are more than comfortable believing two ideas, at the same time, that contradict each other. However, in the hope that truth and reason might bring someone out there to a love of God, I will try one last time to be an advocate for the teachings of the Jesus of History.

Before I deal with the Resurrection we must first investigate the reliability of the main witness: Saint Paul.

All of the Letters of Saint Paul tell, more or less, the same lies:

  1. All children are born into original sin.
  2. That God demands human sacrifice.
  3. That the Torah predicts that the Meshiach (Messiah) will die and be resurrected on the third day.
  4. That sin is dependent on the flesh.
  5. That belief in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus will absolve you of the consequences of your evil actions and original sin.

I challenge any of you to find justification for these concepts in the Torah. These five ideas are the exact opposite of Hebrew spiritual belief and the exact opposite of the teachings of the Jesus of History. They are not in the Torah.

The Jesus of History said:

“God makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust.”

Matthew 5:45

Obviously, Jesus is not giving a weather report, he is echoing the vital ideas from Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) where the preacher teaches us that God does not condemn us.

Unfortunately, most Christians have a problem understanding the teachings of the Jesus of History because they are not linear – in fact, they are experiential.

Teachings like “The Kingdom of God is within you” is an experiential spiritual teaching that is almost infinitely nuanced, like an onion, with meanings within meanings.

 

“Become then merciful as your father is also merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not convict and you will not be convicted.”

Luke 6:36

This logia explains that it is our cognitions, our inner life, that determines our suffering. When the Jesus of History said, “Every man who turns toward a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery” (Matthew 5:28), this teaching further explains that ‘Sin’ is first created in the mind and heart. The body is only the agent of its fulfillment. It is not the body that is sinful (as it were) rather it is our decisions that give rise to suffering. Therefore, it is awareness of and the control of our minds that the Jesus of History suggests we must achieve.

It is obvious, therefore, that the teachings of the Jesus of History are the opposite of the lies of Saint Paul and without the concept of original sin, vicarious sacrifice is pointless.

Having established that ‘according to the Scripturesis a lie, let’s now look at the Resurrection.

 

The Resurrection:

Paul plays with the idea of the Resurrection, like a car salesman testing the stupidity of his client, so it is hard to pin him down, but in this passage he asserts that over 500 people saw Paul’s version of the risen Christ.

Here’s the problem. For an event so incredible, we have no contemporary record of this claim.

The Romans would have been somewhat disappointed that someone they publicly killed came back to life; they would have, at the very least, made a note of it. Jewish history does not mention it, nor do the Nabataeans, nor do the Egyptians make any mention of a Hebrew Rabbi coming back from the dead as a firsthand account. And you must remember that the first century southern Levant is possibly the most written about period in ancient history.

In fact, the Gospels themselves, are very careful what they say about the Resurrection. The Gospel of Mark, the first to be written, originally ended at verse 8 with Mary Magdalene and the Mother of Jesus finding an empty tomb and then saying nothing to anyone.

As the years go by, Mathew gets a little braver and he has an Angel say “go to Galilee and you will see Jesus there.” Somewhat suspiciously a line is added at the end “Suddenly, Jesus met them and he tells them to go to Galilee.”

Luke is a little more judicious, and just has an empty tomb and two men telling the disciples to go to Galilee.

John’s Gospel is almost an exact copy of the Gospel of Marcion and now all bets are off. In this Gospel the gardener tells Mary that he is Jesus. After this touching scene, Jesus appears all over Judea and people get to poke his wounds with their fingers, which must have been fun.

I would suggest that John’s Gospel was not written until after the Bar Kochba revolt (136 CE) and the destruction of Jerusalem. After this cataclysmic event, the family of the Jesus of History couldn’t really object to anything the Greco-Romans said about their family. Most of them would have been dead.

If a resurrected Jesus had actually appeared to 500 people, one would be forgiven for expecting the Gospels to at least agree on that point.  We would also expect the first Gospel to have included this little bit of information. Obviously, some later Christian scholar felt the need to spice up Mark’s Gospel and helpfully added several more verses at the end. The fact that they felt empowered to do so demonstrates that the early Church did not take history too seriously.

Please don’t take my word for any of this. Ultimately, you have to do the work for yourself. I only mention this to give hope to those of you who may have been emotionally and spiritually abused by the lies of this sick man, Saint Paul, the creator of Christianity.

As a last word of hope for any of you, out there, who feel the need to gain some control of your life – to do something about the disconnect between the world you live in and your inner life. The Jesus of History said, “Why call me master and not do what I say? Everyone who hears my words and does them builds a house on solid rock.” I  can confirm that what he said is true. If you DO what he said. If you repeat his experiment, you will find the Kingdom of God.