Despite much scholarly research already providing grounds for doubting the historical accuracy of 'Jesus', most assume that this figure nevertheless had at least some historical basis in fact. Fundamental to this is the pairing of Roman historical data with key elements of the Jesus story.
Laura Knight-Jadczyk believes she has found conclusive evidence that there was no 'Jesus', and that the figure we know by this name is a composite of different narratives woven together to create a new religion. But if there was no 'Jesus', why and how can there today be three major world religions based (or reliant) on one?
Join your hosts this Sunday 20th December 2015 from 2-4pm EST / 11am-1pm PST / 7-9pm UTC / 8-10pm CET for the answers to the greatest story ever sold.
Running Time: 01:55:00
Download: OGG, MP3
Here's the transcript of the show:
Niall: Hello and welcome to another episode of Behind the Headlines. I'm Niall Bradley. My co-host as usual, Joe Quinn.
Joe: Hello there.
Niall: This is an extra special Christmas special episode of Behind the Headlines because we're interviewing Laura. Welcome back to you Laura!
Joe: Where are our jingle bells? We need some sleigh bells in the background, no? Darn it! Rudolph, go ahead.
Niall: I forgot to introduce the date. For reference today's date is Sunday, 20th of December 2015. Laura you were last on when we spoke with Robert Price about five months ago. Robert's among the best researchers out there to have deconstructed the myth of Jesus, but the explanation that there was no "Jesus" as described in the gospels, still leaves us with many unanswered questions, not least how in the name of all things sane did a major world religion grow out of a myth? You recently finished your book. Have you chosen a title for your new book?
Laura: Well it's got a working title, but we're not sure if that's going to be the finished title. It's Josephus, Pilate and Paul; it's Just a Matter of Time-Speculation
Joe and Niall: (Singing) -it's just a matter of time.
Laura: Yeah, cue Randy Travis right there.
Niall: The subtitle I've got here is Observations and Speculations on Parameters for A Historical Pauline Chronology and the Solution to, "Who Was Jesus".
Laura: Yeah, that's pretty much what it is.
Joe: That's a long subtitle.
Laura: Yeah, I know. That's why I said it's not sure that that's going to be the finished title. The book is finished. It's just right now being worked over by a copy editor and having the index built and the bibliography is being constructed and all the footnotes are being standardized. So it's basically finished. I'm done with it.
Niall: You're done.
Laura: I'm done.
Niall: It could be ready then for purchase in the New Year?
Laura: No, it could be ready pretty quick.
Niall: Okay. We'll keep you all posted listeners.
Laura: Y'all excuse me for a second. I want to ask these guys how come my headphones aren't working too well? I really don't...
Joe: Is that any better?
Laura: That's much better.
Joe: There you go. We've sorted you out.
Laura: Oh jeez.
Niall: You've written how many books now Laura?
Laura: I think this is 16 or 17.
Niall: How long did you spend researching this latest one?
Laura: About five years. Well actually my whole life, but in a concentrated way, for the last five years I've been following trails and I kept narrowing the search. At first I was searching in all different directions with a specific idea in mind because if you don't have a specific idea in mind, you don't really know what you're looking for. And you still don't know what you're looking for but you have an idea when you're looking.
And this idea started out with the question you asked, "How the heck could a world religion come out of somebody who didn't exist?" because at that point I didn't really believe that Jesus existed anymore. The Jesus mythicists had done a pretty thorough job and I'd read all their works and I was pretty convinced that there had been no Jesus and if there was, there was maybe some itinerant preacher or whatever. But that didn't make any sense.
Niall: Okay. Is that what you're trying to nail in this book? Who this itinerant might have been?
Laura: Not exactly, no. That's where it started and I thought I might find something in the historical record but the thing is; I got diverted off of this topic onto the problem of the fall and destruction of the Roman Empire. And I noticed when I was reading a lot of the text that a lot of the pagans accused the Christians of being the cause of the destruction. They said, "As soon as the empire converted over to Christianity everything went down very fast and you're the reason all these terrible things are happening to us. If we hadn't given up the old gods we wouldn't be suffering this way."
Of course they were writing about some pretty serious things. If you read the chroniclers of the 5th and 6th century, you read some pretty horrific stuff, earthquakes, tsunamis, plagues, pestilence. And if you look at the archaeological reports you see that the empire went from a certain level of population and activity to something like a cut of 90%! So that's a pretty drastic situation, at least in the western empire. The eastern empire went down pretty quickly after that. But there was this thing hanging out in the air there, that these pagans were accusing the Christians of being the cause of the decline, fall and destruction of the empire which amounted to the deaths of 90% of the people in really horrific events.
So I wanted to chronicle this. There was an idea in my head that if there was some relationship between this. It's a crazy idea, is there some relationship between this imposition of Christianity or this adoption of Christianity by an entire political entity, an empire and the subsequent total and complete destruction of that empire. Is there anything there? So I started to collect the information. I started reading all the chronicles and putting these things together. It got pretty involved because those who read my stuff know I get really obsessed with details and being very precise; So I started databasing things and that meant that I would create tables and I would put in dates and then I would include in different columns, different kinds of events. But this was very primitive. It was really a primitive database, just like an excel spreadsheet.
At some point I made some interesting discoveries that I'm not going to get into here because they're really complicated, but I noticed that there were correspondences between political events and what you'd call cataclysmic events because there were a lot of really weird things going on back then. I was just going along chronicling and at a certain point I swept past the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the Principate, that is Caesar followed by more civil war and then Augustus took over. I think I dealt with Caesar in approximately two or three paragraphs in this.
Joe: How could you!?!
Laura: Well, you know, you think of Caesar and you think well, blah, blah, blah. And then I went along and very quickly - and I was writing all this down, collecting this data together - very quickly the issue of the religion of Mithras came under my eye. So I stopped and I read half a dozen books and 50 papers or so about Mithraism because I wanted to get a really good feel for it. I wanted to be able to condense the best, latest and most pertinent information about Mithraism. I started tracking that and it struck me as odd that Mithraism was such a big thing for such a long time and then it kind of virtually disappeared and then Christianity came to the fore in a big way. This was between the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine because when Diocletian and his other co-emperor Maximian who came out of retirement to try to sort out Constantine's issues, he and his buddies, the four emperors all went up somewhere and erected an altar to Mithras and that was it. Then Constantine went over to Christianity.
I knew that this Diocletian was a pretty good guy. He really did bring home the bacon for the empire because they were really falling apart and that's assuming that you even think that an empire ought to have its bacon brought home, which I don't necessarily think, but all things considered, he straightened things out. So I stopped right there and I said, "I really need to find out the root of Mithraism". I know where y'all are wondering where this is going to go.
Joe: We'll get there.
Laura: Just be patient. I started going even deeper, reading all the original sources, as many as I could, and I discovered that the earliest mention of Mithras was in relationship to pirates in the Mediterranean during the time of Julius Caesar and in fact his one time son-in-law, Pompeius Magnus, was given a special command to deal with these pirates. Caesar himself allegedly, was captured by pirates when he was a young man on his way to Rhodes.
It's a funny story because he was captured by these pirates. They took him to their stronghold and you can imagine all kinds of things and he was very imperious with them and told them that their partying was preventing him from getting good sleep or interfering with his studies or whatever, and they were laughing at him and laughing at him. He says, "Well you can laugh now but when I get out of this I'm going to come back and crucify all of you." And they laughed at that.
So apparently his friends put up the money to pay for his redemption and he got away. And as soon as he got away he went and collected some guys together, got a ship, went back, got the pirates and crucified them. The funny thing about it was that they'd said, "We're going to ask for this much money for your ransom" and he said, "Oh no, no, no, no, that's not nearly enough. You must ask double/triple the amount" and they did and they got it. But then of course when he went back and crucified them, he got all the money.
So there was this funny story about Caesar and pirates and then there were some passages in Plutarch about pirates and their silver oars and golden or purple sails and so forth, and then there were passages about Anthony and Cleopatra that had almost the same words. It was probably stock phrases. But it got me to wondering and I went back and I looked at Caesar and I said, "What does he have to do with Mithras?" Did Caesar create Mithraism I wondered? Did he start it as some sort of military religion because he was famous for the fact that his shoulders adored him and would go to their deaths willingly for him? No matter where he led, they would follow him. They were absolutely loyal.
Niall: And he was always successful in battle.
Laura: Not always.
Laura: Not always successful in battle, but nearly always. And he could take a loss and turn it into something beneficial. But anyway, I started wondering if Caesar as part of his plan to save the empire similar to what Diocletian had done - they seemed like they were very similar individuals in a sense - I wondered if he had had it in his mind that he created some kind of a cultic thing for soldiers and maybe he was planning to spread it through the whole empire and unify everybody under a single religion. That was just what I wondered.
So I decided I had to read everything I could about Caesar to see if he was at the root of Mithraism. This is what I started with. Is Caesar, because he's connected to these pirates who were the first who were alleged to have been known to be performing the rights to Mithras, was there somehow some kind of connection between Caesar and Mithraism? And that's all I was asking at that point.
So I began to read everything I could get my hands on about Caesar, just to see if there was any hint, any action he had ever performed, any law he had ever passed, any comment he had ever made by anybody, ever, at any time that would have indicated that he had it in his mind to start a new religion. That's what I started with. And that's when everything kind of got really weird because reading everything about Caesar can take a little while; but I read and I read, book after book, after book after book, hundreds of scholarly papers, and I got my hands on obscure books and so on and Cambridge companions and Oxford companions and the latest research and da-da-da-da-da.
It was really odd because at one point I was reading a book by Stefan Weinstock called, Divus Julius; which takes you through Caesar's life with a thematic approach. Each section of the book deals with a certain aspect of what Caesar was famous for, like as a general or as a legislator, or as an advocate for the people, or his mercy; different things, all the godlike qualities that were attributed to him. Story after story was being told and of course Weinstock was analyzing them and he was saying, "This may or may not have been true. This is the best information we can get", the usual scholarly thing.
The crazy thing was, was that there was story after story that sounded like the life of Jesus, the gospels. At one point he went somewhere to perform some ceremonial thing on the Alban hills and part of the ceremonial thing was for him to walk from there into Rome wearing these red boots which were some kind of outfit of a god or high priest or something. Of course he was Pontifex Maximus. He was the chief priest of Rome. So he was walking into Rome and all the people gather along the sides of the road and they're shouting and hailing Caesar and waving palm branches and putting palm branches down on the ground for him to walk on. The palm branch of course was a symbol of victory for the Romans. It was not necessarily any kind of big symbol for the Jews or Judeans. It was a Roman thing.
So I wondered where did that story about Jesus and the palm branches and all the Hosannas and everything come from. It was obviously modelled on this event where Caesar came into Rome and all the people were gathered and they were hailing Caesar and throwing palm branches on the ground. Then there were other things. I started thinking, "This is really weird because here he's got these various things in his life story that seemed to me to have been models for the story of Jesus, the gospel stories."
And on top of that, he was betrayed by somebody he cared very much about and murdered, but of course that's as far as I could see it at that point. It didn't seem to me like there was anything much further than that. But it was bugging me. I came down to breakfast one day and I said, "You guys are going to think I'm crazy because this Julius Caesar" - who before that I had never known all that much about - "his life is like, the model for the life of Jesus!" And here I was just talking about certain events that were very striking parallels.
So I thought I was crazy and then we went off on a trip and I talked to some people about it while we were on the trip and then I came back because the whole time we were on this trip I was thinking about it. So when I got home my sister-in-law decided to do a search on the internet to see if anybody else had ever come up with the idea that there was any similarities between the life of Jesus and the life of Caesar and she discovered that there was some guy named Francesco Carotta. He had this idea himself. Do y'all remember where he came to the idea from? I think it was from the passion play.
Niall: His funeral, Caesar's funeral.
Laura: Yeah, he had this whole idea that Caesar's funeral was so remarkably similar to the passion of Jesus that that's the point that he took off from. Well I hadn't even gone to that part! I was just about the life, that certain actions and Caesar's mercy being so pronounced because Weinstock has a whole section in the book about Caesar's mercy and his forgiveness and his intention to initiate a new way of being for society and for political interactions and so forth.
Anyway, I looked at Carotta's stuff and I thought it was pretty interesting. Then I found that there were a couple of historians that made just very glancing notes about some of these similarities. Then there was one guy who wrote a book in Italian. I can't remember his name right offhand, but he had a whole chapter on Caesar being like Jesus although he didn't draw the obvious conclusion from that. He just made note of it, that Caesar was a great guy just like Jesus. So then that kind of got me going again because it just seemed to me that if Caesar was the model for the life of Jesus - who I didn't believe existed at all except as a myth overlaid on some itinerant man maybe, that was as far as I could take it - how did it get turned into a Jewish thing? How the heck did that happen?
And that's when the biblical studies began. Now I've done biblical studies to a very moderate extent off and on for years but here I was proposing to myself, "I really need to get into this deeply, deeply, deeply and I need to read both sides". So I started the biblical studies. Four or five additional bookshelves later (Laughter), and that's not counting the hundreds of papers, those are just the books, I came to the conclusion that the way that happened was via the apostle Paul. Paul was the one. Paul is like the originator of Christianity. So Paul did it. Paul is the one who made a Jewish Jesus, more or less, or so it seemed to me. That meant that I had to really look into the life of Paul. I'd already been through tonnes of Roman history, history of the empire, everything I could get my hands on from a historical perspective, reading all the original texts plus texts about the texts and books about the texts about the texts, etc.
Then I started getting into Pauline studies and I looked and looked and looked and I read and read and read and I realized after all this reading that Paul was indeed the guilty party. But the question was, did he do it on purpose or was it an accident? Or just exactly what was going on in his head? I needed to know what was going on in his head and that meant going to the Pauline epistles and reading every analysis of them I could get my hands on to find everybody's point of view to see if there was anything in there that was useful. And lo and behold, there was.
Everybody and his brother has a theory about who Jesus may or may not have been. There's Jesus the magician. There's the Passover plot. Joseph Atwill wrote one.
Niall: Et tu, Judas? ; this one?
Laura: No, no, no. Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill; The thing was, Atwill wrote this book, Caesar's Messiah and he noticed that there was so much similarity between the gospels and Acts and Josephus, that obviously somebody who was associated with Josephus must have been responsible for it and therefore he concocted this theory that Josephus and Titus and this little group of merry pranksters wrote the gospels to do a joke on everybody and the proof is the relationship between the gospel stories and the history of early Christianity in the book of Acts and Josephus.
Well that meant I had to read Josephus and every analysis of Josephus I could get my hands on to see just exactly what was going on and Acts and so on and so forth. And then there was Hyam Maccoby and his analysis of the Jesus problem, that Jesus was created by the Apostle Paul because Jesus was obviously a Pharisee. Paul was not. Paul was a fraud. Then there was Elaine Hilsenrath who an interesting book Jesus the Nazorean and she analyzed the gospel text and she came to the conclusion that Jesus was a son of Judas the Galilean.
And then there was this clever guy, Daniel Underbrink and his book Judas the Galilean; where his idea was that Judas basically was the model for Jesus. Judas was Jesus and of course everything else; Paul was evil, Paul was a liar. And this is Robert Eisenman's idea that Paul was the liar in the Dead Sea scrolls. And of course he got into a lot of the Dead Sea scrolls and so on and so forth.
So I was taking in a whole heck of a lot of different points of view, different theories, etc. etc. and at a certain point, I was sitting there for the umpteenth time with Tacitus on one leg and Josephus on the other, looking back and forth between them, matching the history because it seemed to me that the only way to solve this is to come at it from a strictly historical perspective. You can't come at it with any kind of belief whatsoever. You've just got to see if there's anything historical here. Is there anything in our history that can explain the emergence of this myth, this legend? And if you were just a historian and you were looking at the history of our civilization and the fact that some religion came up and people started believing in it and everything, you would look at the history as you would when studying any other culture. When you come across the fairy tales you might say, "Well there might be a seed of something in there about a real person but this story was formed in the usual manner of fairy tale formation". There have been some sociological studies on how that happens, how a story about a real event can very quickly become mythicized and I wrote about this in my book Secret History and I mention it in other places, that a real event can be mythicized and the person's name and everything can be completely lost they get a new name and they get a new role and they do all kinds of things.
For example, if you're thinking about the Buddha; now the Buddha is supposed to be the godly name or the role played by a certain individual. There may have been more than one Buddha, but in the particular case of the one that we're familiar with, it supposedly was Prince Gautama. People know who Prince Gautama was and they know a little bit of a something about his life story and how he became the Buddha. The same thing with Confucius; that wasn't really a religion, but it was a philosophy. And then Hinduism, based on the Vedas which can be studied.
But if you study these things as a historian or from outside the culture, you don't study them with any belief; you say well this did or didn't have any historical basis or they just made this up. And I've already shown in my book The Horns of Moses, that most religious myths originate in stories about cosmic events, things happening in the sky, comets and thunderbolts and the activities of planets and so forth and that's why they have this relationship.
So if you're studying our history from the outside and you really wonder about this, it would be glaringly obvious what happened, except for the fact that you get this twist, that Julius Caesar who had the real life of Jesus, who lived the real life of the major events told in the gospels, somebody who was for the people and somebody who did this and that and the other thing, and mercy and so on, betrayed and killed and raised up on a cross-like object for his funeral and all these different things, that somehow his life to overlaid with this other material and he became this Jewish itinerant preacher, whatever.
Niall: With long hair and a beard.
Laura: Right. And you wonder how the hell did that happen, how did that happen? That's just insane. It's crazy.
Niall: In the span of a 100 years or less?
Laura: I would say it was 100 years, yeah. So I started really digging into this and I was there, like I said, for the umpteenth time with Tacitus and Josephus on my lap, flipping back and forth, just looking for historical clues, clues, clues, just a word. And of course the Christian church being in charge of copying and preserving manuscripts for the last 2,000 years, you can be certain that a lot of changes have been made and a lot of things have been destroyed and deleted and omitted or, "I just forgot to copy that chapter". (Laughter) "Oh, lost my head there."
So that was when I made this little discovery that my book is kind of focused on, which is the fact that I am convinced and the book adduces the evidence, that Pontius Pilate was not in Judea in 26/27 to 36 or 37 AD. He was in fact there from 14 or 15 to 19, which was just about four or five years. And the evidence is pretty much there in Josephus if you work between Josephus' wars and his antiquities and work with that with Tacitus as your control, your yardstick; you find that it's pretty darn certain, based on a whole pile of circumstantial evidence because of course there's no smoking gun. When you've got a text that has been manipulated and has been corrected or had something added or interpolated into it, other people are going to argue, "Oh that was original!" But if you're a believer, you're going to argue for all of the falseness of the text. If you're not a believer, you're going to say it's obvious that that was added.
But in any event, when you take Pontius Pilate out of the time period in which he is supposed to have been there, when he's supposed to have executed this Jesus person for whom absolutely not a shred of evidence exists that he was a real person, it basically pulls the rug out from under the whole Christian myth. But the interesting thing about that is that it then makes other things make a lot more sense because Underbrink was right. The Jewish model for Jesus was Judas the Galilean and he was also right that Paul was on about something else. But he was wrong that Paul was evil and so is Eisenman about Paul being the liar.
Paul was hardly on the radar of this group of radical revolutionaries because the early so-called Christian church of Jerusalem that's supposed to be the beginnings of Christianity, the followers of Jesus who were so amazed by his resurrection that it over-awed everybody and they converted thousands of people and they had the Pentecost business and the rushing winds and the flames of fire and everybody speaking in tongues, blah, blah, it's all garbage. It's all made up and it's all based on other stories, other tales that exist in other places. The problem is that the person who wrote the gospel of Luke is probably the same person - most scholars agree that it was the same person - that wrote the Acts of the Apostles. And the reason these gospels and Acts bear so much resemblance to the works of Josephus, as Atwill astutely noticed, is because they used Josephus to write their texts.
And they also used Paul's epistles for a lot of their doctrinal work. People go on and they say, "Well how come Paul says this and this but Jesus never said that. Paul says the lord said it. Why didn't Paul quote Jesus on this because if he'd been familiar with the story of Jesus he would have quoted him when he was trying to make a certain point, but he never did." And then on the other hand you find things that Paul said, reappearing in the mouth of Jesus. But Paul never gives Jesus credit for it.
Well there's a reason for that. It's because the gospels were written after the fact. Many sayings of Jesus came from Paul. And also interestingly, some saying of Jesus came from Julius Caesar. And the life story of Jesus is largely the life story of Caesar, the passion is that of Caesar and there's also some Paul in there. There are also some episodes that are taken from Homeric stories as Dennis R. MacDonald has shown in his books about the gospels. And there's a big part of it that is formed up on the Elijah/Elisha narrative. Basically the persons who were writing these texts were familiar with the rhetorical norms of the day. They were familiar with certain literature and they most definitely were really working Josephus. There are several scenes and individuals whose typology was used. So Atwill is perfectly correct. It's there. Josephus is in the gospels. Josephus is in the Book of Acts. So are a lot of other texts.
Then of course the question becomes how this transition occurred. And I have a theory about it and it's in the book that I've just written. I'm not going to tell you everything about the book! Did you think I was going to tell you the whole thing? You've gotta read the book.
Laura: There's some things in there you've got to read but I think I've made a pretty darn good case for taking Pilate out of the picture. And what that of course means, if you stop and think about it, that for 1,500 years people have been standing up in church every Sunday and reciting the Apostle's Creed or the...
Joe: Used to do it myself.
Laura: Yeah. Do you remember it?
Joe: I believe in god the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only son, our lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate...
Laura: Suffered under Pontius Pilate.
Joe: ...was crucified, died and was buried. They sent him to hell and all the rest of that stuff.
Laura: Yeah. So right there included in the creed is a lie.
Joe: A historically provable lie.
Joe: As far as the actual hard historical data goes.
Joe: Pilate was not, according to official records, the few that are available that you can rely on...
Laura: Or that you can infer...
Joe: ...infer from.
Laura: Right. So that's pretty much what the book is about and that's kind of sorta the short version of how I got to it. You have to deal with a number of issues. Part of this book is kind of technical. I'm going to write a little bit more in the introduction to make it easy for the novice or the newbie to jump right in there and look at the evidence I'm laying out. And I think about anybody can read what I've put together and draw their own conclusions as long as they're not just absolutely, firmly convinced by this creed you just recited, they'll be alright.
Niall: So what I wonder is would they not say, "Well how important is it that the time that Pontius Pilate is in Jerusalem is actually two decades earlier?"
Laura: Well it's really important because the entire Jesus timeline absolutely depends on Pontius Pilate being there to crucify Jesus between 29 and 30 AD because that's when - according to the whole timeline - Jesus was crucified because he had to be crucified then because there are some dates that more or less...
Niall: Can't be moved.
Laura: ...because Paul tells about an episode that he experienced, probably one of the only things that you can tie to a historical person from Paul's own mouth and he says that when he was in Damascus they were chasing him and his followers let him down over the wall in a basket so he could escape the governor of King Aretas of the Nabateans, a historical person mentioned in the letters of Paul.
Now King Aretas died in 40; so Paul had to have done this before Aretas died and also there's a certain amount of years that he tells in his story. So when was Aretas the ruler of Damascus? Because of course you have to fit all these things in. He was persecuting the church. Then he got converted. Then he spent three years in Arabia and then he went to Jerusalem for the first time. And then another period of time went by and he went to Jerusalem for the second time and supposedly he was planning on going for a third trip. But all of these things have spatial distances between them but the only one that has a hook that you can put onto a historical person is this King Aretas.
The interesting this is, there's a little problem there because according to Josephus, John the Baptist was executed in 36 AD.
Niall: And which must come before Jesus' death.
Laura: Well, if Jesus was in 30 and John the Baptist was in 36, we have an impossible contradiction because supposedly, according to the gospels, John the Baptist was executed during Jesus lifetime. So we have just a wee bit of a problem there. In any event, you have to fit Paul into this timeline and this is something else that I do as I work out the Pauline timeline. But you see, I think what happened here is two things happened. First of all Paul invented Jesus. He invented his Caesar Jesus. I think Paul was teaching Caesar as Jesus.
Niall: He never actually refers to someone called Jesus does he?
Laura: Well in a couple of places Jesus is in there and you get the impression it's been added.
Laura: Because he always refers to Christ crucified, Christ on the cross. Apparently Paul had something pretty profound happen to him, so my speculation is that the reason that the date for - and you can find this in some of the early Christian literature - that they refer back to the time of the beginning of the gospels, not back to the time of the crucifixion. In fact the earliest Christian literature makes no mention whatsoever of an earthly Jesus, a real man or anybody who was even known. They make no mention whatsoever. They refer back to the beginning of their gospel.
If my idea is correct, then that means that Paul was converted in about 29 or 30 AD and somehow they got this mixed up. They decided they had to find the right evil procurator of Judea to do the crucifying and somehow, somewhere along the way, Pontius Pilate was mentioned as having executed somebody who was very important to the Jews, so Pontius Pilate was obviously the one who did it. The only problem is, Pontius Pilate executed Judas the Galilean in 19 AD and the Apostle Paul began his gospel in 30 AD and the two became conflated. And that's the big problem.
Joe: Is it possible that Paul had some kind of spiritual experience?
Laura: Absolutely! I am not in agreement with those people who think that Paul was the liar of the Dead Sea scrolls, like Eisenman, and I don't believe that Paul was mythical and that he himself was made up. Robert Price's Amazing Colossal Apostle, is tending to the direction that even Paul was made up, but I don't agree. I love Paul. I have a lot of respect for Paul. Does that make me a believer? No, because there was a long period of time I thought Paul was a freakin' schizophrenic! How could somebody think some of those things that he thought and do some of the things that he did?
Anyhow, I write about that in the book too. What was Paul really on about? And I think some of the best analysis of Paul's thinking was done by George Wells, in his series of five or six or seven books about Christianity. He was a professor of German literature, I believe. So of course his ideas, which are some of the best ideas about the whole thing, have been completely marginalized because he was a "biblical scholar". Well the problem with biblical scholars is most people become biblical scholars because they go to a biblical institute or to a major university that has a bible studies program.
Niall: They go because they believe.
Joe: They're true believers.
Laura: They go because they believe and usually their education is paid for by their religious institutions so they have a heavy investment in remaining believers. And those that stop being believers pay a pretty heavy price. Gerd Lüdemann is one. He's one of the best out there and Thomas Brodie. They're really terrific scholars and they all came to the conclusion that Jesus never existed.
Joe: But in terms of Paul, Paul has some kind of spiritual experience. It may even have been a...
Laura: I think he witnessed a Caesar passion play because there was a cult of Caesar at the time and this is another of mysteries that kind of dovetails into this; why did the cult of Caesar disappear so completely at the same time that the whole Jesus thing came along? And what kind of audiences was Paul preaching to? And what about the Diaspora Jews?
Niall: Is this church... (inaudible)
Joe: So we were cut off there for the usual reasons, but we're back now. So Laura, carry on from where you were. You were talking about Paul.
Niall: He may have witnessed the passion play.
Laura: Well let me straighten this out here. I'm going to work directly from my book text here. The thing is, is that Paul obviously knew the messiah of the Jerusalem ecclesia and I refer to it as ecclesia. Ecclesia has been translated as church in most of our bibles but an ecclesia back in those days was a semi-political community religious organization. It was just a group of people, an ecclesia.
But anyhow, he obviously knew the messiah of the Jerusalem ecclesia, but just as obviously he wasn't much impressed by him or them and this may be shocking, but it's true. He tells the Corinthians that they appear to be easily taken in by "a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached" and in the next breath he refers to those "super apostles" in a very sarcastic term. He then goes on to excoriate as, "false apostles, deceitful workers masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
He's talking about these Jerusalem apostles. He's talking about Peter. He's talking about James. He's talking about John because those were the only ones that he ever knew by name. There were no 12 disciples of Jesus in Paul's time. They didn't exist yet. They hadn't been invented yet. But here he's saying, "For Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then that his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
This is where you get into the fact that this Jerusalem ecclesia was a revolutionary organization; à la Dead Sea scrolls type. They were radicals. They were followers of Judas the Galilean who was a radical. He was totally against the Romans. He was all for burning, pillaging, plundering and killing every single one of them and creating his revolution. Okay?
Paul's Jesus was not this revolutionary person. Well of course Judas the Galilean was executed in 19 AD.
Joe: By Pilate.
Laura: Right. And the thing is, this Jerusalem ecclesia began to put it around that their two or three or four or more revolutionary leaders were going to be resurrected or had been resurrected, they had seen them and that they had been promised that they were going to come with god to destroy the Romans any day now, any day now. And this is one of the reasons why at the time of the great revolt in Judea, there was so much confidence on the part of the Jews that they would stand up against the Romans as they did, because they firmly believed that their god, with their messiahs - and their messiahs weren't gods. They were human men who had died and had been resurrected by god and were going to come back with god and whup up on the Romans. That's what they believed.
Paul did not believe this. Paul had a completely different story and a completely different messiah. Further on he says, "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendents? So am I." So it's pretty clear who he's talking about. The end result of that is that Paul's son of god was not Judas the Galilean or any other Jewish figure despite the fact that later redactors have tried to make it appear that they were one in the same.
In Galatians he announces himself, "Paul an apostle, sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and god the father". And then accuses his readers, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. 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 preach to you, let him be under god cursed." And then he continues, "I want you to know brothers and sisters that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man nor was I taught it. Rather I received it by revelation in Jesus Christ."
And then further on when he's talking about his second trip to Jerusalem he mentions that he uses the Jerusalem ecclesia specifically making the side comments, "as for those who were held in high esteem, whatever they were, makes no difference to me. God does not show favouritism. They added nothing to my message." They added nothing to my message. His message was totally, completely, wholly different, just absolutely completely different from what was going on in that Jerusalem ecclesia. There was never the twain shall meet no matter what the Book of Acts says.
His opponents finally come into focus and he says, "When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face because he stood convinced for before certain men came from James he used to eat with the gentiles but when they arrived he began to draw back and separate himself from the gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." And based on the way this group, this James gang as I call them, spied on Paul, hounded him, interfered with his work and his groups, and the way he responded to them in his letters, it is obvious Paul was not preaching the same Christ. And the Jerusalem group was becoming more and more hostile about it.
It seemed clear, from what we know based on all the discussions, that Paul could not have been ignorant of Judas the Galilean and his fourth philosophy or that he and possibly other dead rebel leaders was most likely the messianic figure preached by the Jerusalem ecclesia, so this is obviously not the messiah who inspired Paul. The real character on whom the Jewish Jesus was loosely modelled was of absolutely no interest to Paul. That in and of itself is an astonishing thing, but that realization leaves us free to try to discover exactly what it was that drove Paul because it's clear he wasn't myth making or running a con job. He was utterly devoted to his mission, body and soul. And since Paul is ultimately the author of the main Christian theology and Christology, we should very much want to know what he was thinking.
Joe: Do you want to take a question from a caller?
Joe: Okay. This is Steven from Tampa Bay.
Laura: Hi Steven.
Steven: Yes, hello. Thank you. Very intrigue theses that you have developed in your book and I would definitely recommend that people pick it up because it's not very often that you are exposed to, in our culture, something as heretical as some of your suppositions that you're presenting to us. I welcome it because it appears that you're a person of good spirit. And what I mean by that is just general beneficence and goodwill and I can tell that was presented. But I would say this, in that we're about five days from Christmas. You've totally ruined my Christmas. (Laughter)
Laura: Well I'm going to give it back to you in a minute. Just hold on.
Laura: I'm going to give it back to you.
Steven: At least I have my belief in Santa still firm, okay?
Joe: Yeah. That's important.
Steven: But I would make a general comment. It's interesting when you think back on those days and you review these historical texts how inter-fused politics and religion were. They were not really separate. Religion still has a huge function in our society today. I call myself a Christian but at the same time I really don't believe it. I know that sounds absurd. Until I was about 24 I used to believe that I was damned to hell but I investigated further and my beliefs have changed and I'm not damned to hell. I know that.
But what I think is very interesting is that I heard somebody say one time that the historical figure of Jesus is actually an amalgam of different figures of that historical period that were woven together through story-telling and then the religion of Christianity became intertwined with the Roman empire. I just wanted to make that comment. But my personal belief is that history doesn't exist as we think it does as far as 100% truth ever existing. I believe that our concept of time is highly distorted and past, present and future co-exist at one time and history is never written in stone. It can be amended.
Joe: It should be amended.
Steven: I know that's kind of a freaky idea. I can't really wrap my mind around it but I really don't believe in any kind of narrative as being "100% true" and I believe that we need beliefs for grounding or else we couldn't exist in any type of cohesion as a society. I'm just going to leave this last comment and hang up, but I believe that we're at a very interesting age where people are coming to see that these things are not 100% true but we still as a society needs to have some coherence so we grasp onto our beliefs. But I believe our beliefs are evermore tenuous as we continue and that's the kind of malaise of the situation that we're in right now. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for presenting this book.
Joe: Steven thanks for your comments, but I just wanted to say you should check out Paleochristianity.
Steven: What's that again?
Steven: Oh, paleochristianity. Okay.
Joe: Look it up on the web.
Steven: Yeah, I will do that and Merry Christ-mass, okay? (Laura laughs)
Joe: Alright, same to you.
Steven: God bless. Take care. Bye-bye.
Niall: See you Steven.
Joe: We'll just go straight to Jimmy from New York who's been waiting for 12 minutes. Hi Jimmy.
Jimmy: Hi. How are y'all?
Joe: Not too bad. How's yourself?
Jimmy: I'm okay. New York comes with its own challenges but we'll be okay.
Joe: I can imagine.
Jimmy: I'm in New York City, so the amount of drama is heightened...
Joe: Even worse.
Jimmy: Yeah. I'm enjoying the show. I would like to say that at the core, the word god itself comes from a pagan group and god originally was ghudan. It came from a proto-Germanic group of tribes. Also I wanted to suggest that there was no J in ancient Hebrew, Greek, Adamaic or Egyptian, so the notion that the so-called messiah would be named Jesus is really a mix of translation and transliteration. What happens over history is ancient myths are taken by other cultures. They then utilize their language typically, to describe something that they did not create. Much of what we learn is mythology and cosmology which was often misconstrued and misunderstood by ancient cultures that didn't have the advanced tools that we have.
So I am not a religious person or spiritual, but I do respect peoples' right to believe. I just ask that people dig deeply and ask as many questions as they can of their so-called preachers and sages in the mosques, etc., because we have our own brain and we have a right to question. I'm appreciating listening. I love discussions where we're able to talk, agree on some points, disagree on some and walk away without a military intervention or head being cut off. (Laughter)
Joe: Yeah, exactly.
Niall: Well said Jimmy. Thanks for your call.
Jimmy: Thank you. You all have a great day.
Niall: You too. Thank you.
Laura: So we left off on wanting to discover what Paul was thinking and believe it or not, there are enough clues in his letters that you can kind of figure it out. And of course if you really know a good deal about what was going on in the background, what was available in the culture, what other people were writing and saying - the Dead Sea scrolls have helped a lot with that. The Nag Hammadi library has given us a treasure trove of texts to compare to the Christian text. A lot of conclusions can be inferred from those writings.
At the time there was a lot of apocalypticism going on. This is mainly coming from the Jews. For example Gnosticism was originally begun by disaffected Jews, Jews who no longer believed in their religion. So that in itself is an interesting point. But they were working out, along with the middle Platonists of the time, what is between us and god. What are the levels of the universe? Because the idea was that god was so high and holy and pure that he could not possibly have any contact or direct connection with human beings because it would sully him.
Therefore they developed these layers and levels, these cosmologies that were populated by all kinds of beings and it was like an angelology. They had a very highly developed angelology. And much of this was developed by the Jews in Jewish literature. And we have just read Paul's words; "I'm a Jew. I'm a Hebrew". He grew up in this environment. He was exposed to these highly developed angelologies and the ideas of the multi-layered universe. Never mind that most of this was borrowed by the Jews from Greek philosophical speculations. It was part of the intellectual environment of the time.
So Paul, based on what he writes in his letters, was engaged in a battle against these obviously terrifying forces and his vision was one where a single being could stand against this series of worlds lower than god himself and act as the defender and redeemer of humanity. Probably Paul's main influence was a work called, The Ascension of Isaiah. The Ascension of Isaiah has been made available thanks to the Dead Sea scrolls. He had a revelation very similar to the revelation revealed in, The Ascension of Isaiah. In 1st Corinthians he tells that god has revealed marvellous things to him, things he adds, which pertain to our salvation, to god's gift to us. The purpose of this descent and re-ascent is given in the passage from Colossians, "By the blood of his cross he laid the basis for reconciling all things in heaven and earth to the father. By his death and resurrection he broke the power of those angels who opposed god and also put an end to man's dependence on angels, good or bad. Man can now commune with god via Jesus without other intermediaries." Paul declares, "We need no longer be slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe, that no spirit need now separate us from the love of god and that the rulers of this world are declining to their end."
The reference is to Satan and his angels and in the passage from Corinthians Paul is thus saying that it is, "these wicked creatures who crucified the lord of glory, not knowing who he was."
So he says, "Paul describes in Colossians how they were tricked and vanquished, having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them. The New English Bible translates it 'He made a spectacle of the cosmic powers and authorities and led them as captives in his triumphal procession'.
Now a triumphal procession was a very Roman ceremonial act.
So in the regular book of Isaiah, not The Ascension of Isaiah, we find what was driving Paul. As many people know, messiah simply means anointed one and can apply to priests, kings, prophets and it is in Isaiah that we find that the only non-Jew in the Old Testament who was identified as the messiah or the anointed one of Yahweh was Cyrus. Paul describes his call to be an apostle where he says, "When god who had set me apart before I was born and called me to his grace was pleased to reveal his son to me so that I might proclaim him among the gentiles. I did not confer with any human being nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me. But I went away at once into Arabia and afterward I returned to Damascus."
There's a clear relationship between this text and the formulation of the words of it, to Isaiah 49 where it says, "Listen to me you islands. Hear this you distant nations. Before I was born the lord called me. From my mother's womb he had spoken my name." And there are numerous places where Paul identifies with the Deuteron Isianic servant of god and appears to have planned his mission based on this text. In Josephus we learn that the territory where Paul got his revelation was an area where there were Essene groups settled. Paul's itinerary was governed by Isaiah 66 which says, "And I because of what they have planned and done am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages and they will come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory."
So it seems that Paul was convinced that he was born and living this plan for the gentiles to be brought under the fatherhood of the Jewish god but that the anointed one, who was to effect this event, was this Christ on the cross or Caesar on the Trivium. Anyhow, I go into that in some detail in the book and you will see how it has been worked out that Paul was following a definite plan of Isaiah and that he was doing exactly what Isaiah had presented when he talked about Cyrus, "who was called god's anointed, who was designed and qualified for his great service by god himself. And we see god condemning those who criticize the fact that he has chosen a non-Jew to do his work. God says, 'Does the clay say to the potter what are you making?' which we find echoed in Romans, but who are you, a human being to talk back to god? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, why did you make me thus? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"
So as you can see, there's a really good case to be made for Paul preaching Caesar as Jesus. And as our caller said, there was no J. It was Yesus and just as there was no J for Julius Caesar either. It was Iulius. And it wasn't even pronounced Caesar. It was pronounced Kaiser, Iulius Kaiser.
Joe: Are you suggesting that Paul was actually practicing the kind of doctrine of Julius Caesar as a saviour by name exactly?
Joe: He wasn't doing it in a veiled way to...
Laura: Well in one of the texts it says that when he came down he was given the name of Jesus, the highest name, that is Joshua actually, or Yeshua. And Yeshua means saviour. So he renamed Julius Caesar, Yeshua Christos the anointed saviour.
Joe: Is it possible he did that in an effort not to alienate certain people or to try and broaden the appeal of the religion?
Laura: Yes, because there's also considerable evidence that Paul taught one thing outwardly and other things privately to his groups. He said so clearly in a number of places in his epistles that that was what he was doing. And he also mentions in one place in Galatians, "What you witnessed, Christ crucified". In other words he was putting on mystery plays. He was undoubtedly putting on a passion play.
Joe: Well there's certainly a spiritual aspect to what Paul was teaching.
Joe: But he wouldn't have gotten that from the life of Julius Caesar, for example. Julius Caesar was about mercy, compassion, good deeds, that kind of thing. It was very much earthly. Caesar himself didn't promote or represent any kind of abstract spiritual ideas.
Laura: Okay. Here's something here. Let me get to it if I can find it. St. Ignatius in one of his homilies includes an interesting detail which was something that must have been commonly believed at the time even though Ignatius was probably involved with the creating of the story of an earthly Jesus, but that's a whole other story. But he wrote, "Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world as was also her offspring and the death of the lord, three mysteries of renown which were wrought in silence by god."
Now right here he's saying that this was all private. Nobody knew about it because of course he was building his case for his Jewish Jesus. "How then was he manifested to the world? A star shown forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars with the sun and the moon formed a chorus to this star and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike everything else above. Hence, every kind of magic was destroyed and every bond of wickedness disappeared. Ignorance was removed and the old kingdom abolished when god appeared in human form for the renewal of eternal life."
This is incompatible with the gospel accounts where Jesus was known to the world and Satan, as was his death. "Ignatius shows no familiarity with Matthew or Luke's birth story for Jesus, Bethlehem, the star in the east, the Magi, shepherds, etc. He associates this remarkable celestial event with the resurrection after his death when he defeats the forces of darkness. Ignatius appears to be saying, 'this is how Jesus manifested to the world; not as the Galilean preacher but as the bright light in heaven'."
That is obviously what was understood at the time, even though Ignatius and Polycarp and others were in the process of creating an earthly Jesus. But it was understood at the time that the star relationship to this messianic individual happened after his death and who had the great comet after his death, at his funeral games?
Laura: Julius Caesar, exactly.
Joe: I just want to go back to what you mentioned at the very beginning, which was Mithraism. The Mithraic mysteries were practiced in the first century AD, the first to fourth century AD.
Laura: I have to tell you I lost interest in Mithraism, but I will tell you what I concluded about it.
Laura: I think it was kind of like the Free Masons.
Joe: You speculated that it had something to do with Caesar. Was Julius Caesar promoting it during his lifetime?
Laura: No, I don't think he was. I don't think he had anything to do with it. I think that some of these things were attached to his name afterwards because Mithraism is like the Free Masons.
Niall: More like a club.
Joe: It was around at the time though.
Laura: Oh, yes!
Joe: Because there's a link between Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. That's supposedly where they take their spiritual beliefs from.
Laura: Well wait. Not really.
Laura: No. That was early interpretation of Mithraism and a lot of people like Franz Cumont wrote a lot about it, interpreting it from the Zoroastrian point of view or from the Persian religion point of view or the Persian Mithras and the more recent work on that has been that they used the fact that they had these wars going on with Mithridates, that there were a lot of rebels and rebellions and so on and so forth, and they formed this Mithras cult as a counter measure against the rebellions. I'll go into that at some other time.
Joe: I just thought the Zoroastrian beliefs were kind of interesting because they're general in the sense of forces of good and evil and you must live a good life. They're fairly in line with an almost Gnostic religion, no?
Laura: Well you can't compare Mithraism to any Zoroastrian thing. It's not even the same thing.
Joe: Right. But official there's supposedly a link between them, right?
Laura: Well no. That was the old view.
Joe: The old view.
Laura: That's the old view, yeah.
Joe: But I suppose what I was thinking was that you have Paul - trying to look at this as our caller Steven mentioned, religion is very much linked today and has always been very much linked with politics and political situations at any given time. You can't get very far in world politics today before bumping straight into Islam. You can assume that at times of chaos and crisis that that's what fuelling it in some way or other; that's what's behind it. So maybe this was true 2,000 years ago. And you have Paul going around and there's a plethora of different types of religious beliefs or even not so religious, more political or social beliefs, and he goes on a mission and he tries to incorporate as much of the elements of all of these different belief systems that are around at the time...
Laura: I don't know if he was consciously doing it. I think he had his vision. I think he probably attended a passion play of Julius Caesar. Paul was pretty well into this angelology and this apocalyptic literature and he had a fevered imagination. His nature comes through in his letters.
Joe: Where would he have gotten this apocalyptic literature from?
Laura: Well it was all over the place. The Jews were writing it right and left.
Laura: There was so much of that stuff going on; it was the talk of the day. You could even say that these early so-called Christians, early Jerusalem ecclesias, the Dead Sea scroll people were serious apocalypticists and they were seriously intent on destroying the Romans or rebelling against the Romans, so you could almost say that they were the Islamic fundamentalists of their day.
Laura: And they were going to kill, murder, maim and destroy anybody who didn't believe as they believed.
Joe: And there wasn't one particular religion or several religions they subscribed to like an apocalyptic teaching.
Laura: Well it was their variation on Judaism but Judaism had many variations. It allowed for that. It had Sadducees, Pharisees.
Niall: Like Islam today.
Laura: Yeah. There's Sunni, Shiites, Wahhabis and so on and so forth. I want to get a little piece here. I'm not going to give everything away from the book, but I've got something from Virgil who describes the unusual events that took place following Caesar's assassination and this is going back to the star imagery. He wrote:
Who dare say the son is false? He and no other warns us when dark uprisings threaten, when treachery and hidden wars are gathering strength. He and no other was moved to pity Rome on the day that Caesar died when he veiled his radiance in gloom and darkness and a godless age feared everlasting night. Yet in this hour earth also and the planes of oceans ill-boding dogs and birds that spell mischief sent signs which heralded disaster. How oft before our eyes did Etna deluge the fields of the Cyclopes with a torrent from her burst furnaces, hurling thereon balls of fire and molten rocks. Germany heard the noise of battle sweep across the sky and, even without precedent, the Alps rocked with earthquakes. A voice boomed through the silent groves for all to hear, a deafening voice, and phantoms of unearthly pallor were seen in the falling darkness. Horror beyond words, beasts uttered human speech; rivers stood still, the earth gaped upon; in the temples ivory images wept for grief, and beads of sweat covered bronze statues. King of waterways, the Po swept forests along in the swirl of his frenzied current, carrying with him over the plain cattle and stalls alike. Nor in that same hour did sinister filaments cease to appear in ominous entrails or blood to flow from wells or our hillside towns to echo all night with the howl of wolves. Never fell more lightning from a cloudless sky; never was comet's alarming glare so often seen.Joe: It sounds like a concentration of events over the past few years that have been happening on this planet. Etna just erupted two weeks ago.
Laura: Yeah. Obviously this was written long before the gospels were and you can see quite clearly where they got some of the...
Niall: Apocalyptic stuff.
Joe: End of world stuff.
Laura: And the ideas of what happened at the time Jesus died. And of course it's well known that there really was the comet at Caesar's funeral game and I read a study recently where it shows that there was a spike in the Greenland ice cores of volcanic matter in the atmosphere at the time of Caesar's death. So we have scientific confirmation that it happened when Caesar died and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that anything of any type, shape, form or fashion happened when this so-called Jesus died in 29 or 30 AD. And in fact Pliny the Elder and Seneca who both wrote books about natural history and recorded every comet or earthquake, all those kinds of things that were available to them in the literature of the time, never mentioned anything happening all over the worlds as was claimed in 29 or 30 AD for Jesus. But they all commented on the terrible disastrous events that happened at the time of the death of Caesar.
Joe: We can understand the idea of where they get an apocalypse or where the end of the world comes from, but where did the idea of a saviour come from? Because when we talk about Julius Caesar, he didn't preach about a saviour.
Laura: This was an interesting development I think in the Gnostic/Dead Sea scrolls type literature because if you read the Nag Hammadi text and then you read the Dead Sea scrolls you see certain correspondences. And of course there are people who argue against it because they want to maintain the purity. But it's fairly obviously that there were some correspondences. Now the difference was that the Dead Sea scroll people were speculating along these apocalyptic lines with the retention of the Old Testament and the Old Testament god as being supreme.
The Gnostics on the other hand turned everything around. They were disaffected. They were speculating that the Jewish god became something like a demon then he was the archon of darkness, or he was the demiurge, the Jesus creator who didn't know what he was doing, that sort of thing. So there were these two different trajectories that these groups take but they kind of started with the same basic ideas. Like I said, they were speculating based on some of the middle Platonic ideas of the levels of the universe and the creatures and so forth, in there.
So you have all these angels and creatures and all this kind of stuff. Considering some of the stuff we've gotten into, he may not be so crazy, which is why I find Paul so interesting, if this is what he was talking about and if he was convinced that Julius Caesar was the one who could stand between humanity and the evil archons of darkness and the fallen angels and so forth, maybe he wasn't crazy!!
Joe: By preaching a fairly simple and basic code of living, as opposed to effectively teaching people living through life and that's the path to be saved.
Laura: Well he had the idea - and this idea of a messiah, which is just an anointed one - the idea of somebody being a saviour is more actually a Roman concept than it was originally a Jewish concept because their thing was, "Adhere to your god. You've got a covenant. You be good, god will take care of you." But of course they found out that didn't work, which is why the Jewish Gnostics started to begin with. They were disaffected from Judaism.
But the idea of the patron system was very, very Roman. You were there for your patron. Your patron takes care of you. It was kind of the mafia of the ancient world. You had bonds of service. It was in a sense kind of early feudalism even.
Joe: And in times of extreme stress and crisis with the earth change type of things going on, people might have parléed that eventually into the idea that they needed to be saved, so if they could parlée that into some idea of a saviour or some great person in the past but as you said, maybe it's more likely that it was the life of Caesar and what that represented for certain people.
Laura: Well he was so outstanding a human being. He was probably the greatest human being who ever lived, based on everything I've read. You have to sometimes read through his critics who didn't understand what he was doing, but when they give you the data and the information, and even if his critics are saying good things about him even though they hate him and didn't understand him, you kind of get the full picture. So I feel fairly confident in saying, he's probably the greatest human being who ever lived. Had he been born in our times, maybe he would have been even greater. I don't know.
But the thing is in very ancient times it was thought that the only people who were saved or who went to heaven or the concept of heaven, or went up to the stars to be with the gods or whatever, were great heroes, people who did great deeds; and the only way that the common, ordinary person had of getting to have a life after death was if they were firmly attached to a hero in some way, if they paid cult to a hero and asked this hero to remember them. So it was kind of like a basic, very early religious idea because the common person, unless they were a hero and there weren't too many heroes, had no chance of a life after death.
There are all kinds of inscriptions of papyri and things inscribed on little gold things that are buried with people where they tell their particular cult object: "Please remember me; I did this, that and the other thing, I'm one of yours, I performed the rites; I did this or that, so please remember me and grant me eternal life after death", whatever.
So these ideas developed gradually as to whether and how an ordinary person could live after death because for a very long time, there was just the place of the dead. It was this shadowy place under the earth and the main thing that people wanted to do was make sure that the dead didn't turn into marauding ghosts. So you've got to have a family. You've got to have people who take care of you after you're dead and bring you food once a year or however often, or pour out a libation on the ground on your behalf and so forth.
The there was the idea of the patron, the hero, being able to stand up for you, to fight your battles for you, as Caesar did. And he was famous in his time for never turning away somebody who was deserving. He was famous for his generosity, for the help he gave to people and for always fulfilling his word. It was a common concept at the time. All these ideas were in Paul's head. They were in the air he breathed; the apocalypticism, the Jewish ideas. He was obviously a Diaspora Jew. He was not born in Jerusalem. He didn't live in Jerusalem. He was only in Jerusalem twice, once for two weeks and once for a few days, so he was not a Jerusalem Jew. He was Diaspora Jew. He was more at home with the gentiles than he was with any Jews and that's why I say I doubt that Eisenman is correct when he says that Paul was the liar of the Dead Sea scrolls because Paul wasn't even on their radar. I suggest in this book that if there was anybody who was a liar according to the Dead Sea scrolls people, it's probably Josephus.
Joe: You promised to give Christmas back to Steven and everybody else listening. So how do we get some Christmas cheer back in and what exactly is Christmas cheer after everything you've just told us?
Laura: Well, you should know that Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the deity Saturn. And it was held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded the festivities through to the 23rd of December. It was celebrated with the sacrifice at the temple of Saturn in the Roman forum and a public banquet followed by private gift giving, continual partying and a carnival atmosphere that overturned all social norms. Gambling was permitted. Masters served the slaves. The poet Catullus called it: the best of days. It was the best known of Roman holidays. Everybody loved it. Everybody wanted it. This was back from the 5th century BC when this was instituted and the reason was because the time during the reign of Saturn was the golden age and during the golden age everybody was equal. Everybody had all they wanted and all they needed. Everybody was happy. Everybody treated everybody well. And therefore during the festival of Saturnalia, that's how you were supposed to act. You were supposed to have a good time, give gifts.
Joe: As if it was a golden age.
Laura: Act as if you were living in the golden age. You were reviving the golden age for a period of time. They say that it began in the days before the winter solstice and that was because they began to party to bring the sun back, the festivals of light and all these kinds of things.
So it says, "Although probably the best known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Our modern understanding of it has to be pieced together from different accounts dealing with various aspects. We have here an extract from a letter of Seneca who looked forward to the holiday somewhat tentatively. He wrote:
It's now the month of December when the greater part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation. Everywhere you hear the sound of great preparations as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business. Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct, whether we should ever in our usual way or to avoid singularity, both take a better supper and throw off the toga.Because throwing off the toga was part of the Saturnalia celebration.
Joe: Does that mean running around naked? (Laughter)
Laura: I don't think so exactly.
Joe: Yeah well we need something on costumes here. What should we be wearing?
Laura: Well I'd say probably white tunics because under their toga most Romans wore tunics in the Greek style after they got a little more civilized. I know that Cato the younger went around in a toga with nothing else on and he went barefoot because he was trying to prove how righteous he was.
Joe: He likely scared people instead.
Laura: Pliny describes a secluded suite of rooms in his villa which he retreated to especially during the Saturalia when the rest of the house was noisy with the holiday and festive cries. "This way I don't hamper the games of my people and they don't hinder my work or my studies." So he was a real wet blanket.
Joe: He was a humbug.
Niall: That does sound like Christmas.
Laura: So it seems that they also invented Christmas cards because verses were written to accompany the little token gifts. And what they gave mostly were token gifts. It was like the more you thought of somebody, the smaller the gift would be. It was people who were really trying to impress somebody bought big, expensive things. And you were supposed to attach handwritten verses for the occasion to your gifts, so it was like the early form of the Christmas card.
In any event, let's see if we can find anything else here. "By the late republic the private festivities of the Saturnalia had expanded to seven days and December 17th was the first day." So it was only after Christianity was adopted as the state religion in the 4th century that the birth of Jesus was attached to this festival because they were trying to co-opt it for their own purposes.
Joe: In the 4th century.
Joe: So almost 400 years after the supposed birth of Jesus.
Laura: Three hundred years.
Joe: Three hundred years.
Laura: Yeah. Anyhow, the Mishnah and the Talmud describe a pagan festival called Saturna which occurs for eight days before the winter solstice. It's followed - and this was probably established and created or developed by the Diaspora Jews, or Jews who had been in contact with the whole Roman festival but they apparently liked it pretty well - is followed for eight days after the solstice for the festival called Calenda culminating with the Calends of January. The Talmud ascribes the origins of this festival to Adam.
Laura: Yeah. Who saw that the days were getting shorter and thought it was punishment for his sins, so he was afraid that the world was returning to chaos and emptiness so he sat and fasted for eight days. Well, what do you say? It's the Talmud. They don't know how to party. Once he saw that the days were getting longer again he realized that this was the natural cycle of the world so he made eight days of celebration. The Talmud states that this festival was later turned into a pagan festival. So basically they're claiming it as having created it. No comment.
In the beginning of December, in ancient texts writes, "The farmer should have finished his autumn planting and now with the approach of the winter Saturnas, the god of seed and sowing is honoured with a festival. In Cicero's time it lasted seven days." Augustus limited it to three days because he was a real...
Laura: He was a Scrooge. No doubt about it. Claudius restored it. So there is a lot of reason to be happy with this most popular holiday of the Roman year. As noted, Catullus describes it as the best of days. Let's see, what else do we have for it? There were guest gifts. Restrictions were relaxed, the social order inverted. Everything was fun. Felt caps were worn symbolizing the freedom of the season. So that must be where the little pointed Santa Claus hat comes from because these felt caps that they wore to symbolize freedom was the pointed cap of Mithras. Slaves were treated as equal. The equality was temporary of course.
Oh dear, that gets into some ugly stuff. I'm not going to talk about that. (Laughter) I'm flipping some pages here, looking at all the different things I've collected. That's enough of that. You now know that Saturnalia is the best way to look at it and there's no way that we can connect it to Caesar or anything in his life except for the fact that when he brought in his new calendar and a couple of days were added to the month of December, he just moved the day to the 17th and that was the day when Saturnalia began. So, the 17th, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22; so, you basically celebrate until the solstice. I guess you could celebrate after the solstice too.
Joe: Well, people could make up their festivals in ancient times and certainly we can do it today and carry on tradition to a certain extent. But we can expand on it.
Laura: Well I think it's great because at Saturnalia you can do Karaoke, you can maybe have a little champagne, and you can have this big feast because I'm all about the feast part. And that was the main thing about it and I think that people would be really unhappy if they didn't have their feast part, their turkey or ham or goose or duck or whatever, with their dressing and the gravy and their cakes and pies because having a big feast was mainly what the Romans were doing. They were partying and giving gifts to each other and writing verses for each other and running around and just acting just generally jolly. So I think that's what we all should do. But we shouldn't deceive ourselves that it's the birthday of anybody like Jesus and it's certainly not Caesar's birthday. His birthday is in July. So I don't see any reason why one couldn't have a little celebration in the middle of July.
Joe: Well there you have it folks. We've taken with one hand and...
Niall: Given back.
Joe: ...given back with the other and presented the situation in perhaps a more expansive and open way rather than limiting it to the birth of one little baby who's going to save the world for ever and ever, over and over and over again.
Laura: The only person who can do that is Caesar.
Joe: Right. Caesar would have to come back but there's not much chance of that happening. I think we'll leave it there for this week.
Laura: I say Eoh Saturnalia!
Joe: Eoh Saturnalia. What does that mean?
Laura: That means...
Niall: Merry Saturnalia?
Laura: More or less yes.
Niall: Oh! Eoh Saturnalia!
Joe: There we go. That's a radical departure from Merry Christmas, but why not? They're just words after all.
Laura: And party, party dudes!
Joe: Party hearty. Have fun. Celebrate the bounty of the earth that's available. What are you going to do? No point getting your sack cloth on and beating yourself every day. But remember I suppose the important part which is community and sharing of like-minded people, and loving each other and having fun with each other. What else is there at the end of the day? What else is there to do in this life other than learn and grow and share and be good to each other and be everything that the powers that be in this world are not effectively? So I think that should be a Christmas message.
Niall: Well said Joe.
Joe: And that can be your stand against the powers of this world, to represent everything they do not. It's pretty obvious what they represent so go for it!
Laura: Ave Caesar!
Joe: Ave Eoh Saturnalia, alright folks. Thank you Laura for coming on and elucidating all sorts of things. We will be back next week.
Niall: Next year Joe.
Joe: Is it next year? Oh sorry. Niall's lobbying here for a Christmas break. We'll have a meeting about that.
Niall: We may have a show between now and 2016.
Joe: Depending on what happens. But if not, everybody have a good...
Joe: Saturnalia, solstice, whatever time you want to call it and we'll see you again in the New Year. Thanks to our callers and chatters and everybody else. We hope you all enjoyed the show. We'll be back next week or next year.
Niall: Which ever comes first.