Mark ended his gospel by saying that Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb. Mark was a sober and honest eye witness, and that is all he knew. So he left it there. But that left Peter and other apostles with a problem. They wanted Jesus to say "I have gone, now everyone should follow the church". So they added an extra verse to Mark:
There were rumors that Jesus survived the crucifixion and appeared to people. So somebody added these verses instead:
Note that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene: some speculate that she was his wife. But this ending still wasn't triumphant enough. The apostles did not want the story to end with their unbelief! So even more verses were added in some Bibles:
This became the most popular version, and is in most modern Bibles. But it appears to contradict Jesus' earlier teachings:
An Armenian manuscript from AD 989 inserts the name “Presbyter Ariston” after verse 8, perhaps attributing it to attributed to Ariston, a disciple of John. But whatever their origin, these verses reflect the triumph of the supernatural view of Jesus. That view, based on miracles and hierarchies of power, would dominate the church for the next two thousand years.
But if we stick to the earliest records we are drawn to the conclusion that Jesus may have survived the crucifixion by natural means.
The disciples believed
The disciples believed he was risen from the dead. This was reasonable, as they saw him, with his wounds.
The resurrection caused a dramatic change
According to the Bible, seeing Jesus did not cause a dramatic change. They did not even recognise the recovered Jesus at first, and after he had gone they had to persuade themselves that they felt something (on the Road to Emmaeus). Peter first returned to scraping a living as a poor fisherman, and Jesus had to ask him three times to "feed my sheep".
The dramatic change was not the resurrection, but Pentecost. Faced with a room getting noisier and noisier with excited pilgrims, who had heard about Jesus, Peter realised he was the de facto leader of a movement with thousands of followers! Whatever Peter said about Jesus, they listened! They obeyed him! They treated him as God's representative on earth! Peter was faced with a choice: return to poverty as a fisherman, or be treated like a God. No wonder he was he embraced his new role, and believed it deeply, even though it finally killed him. It is a path trodden by many a religious leader before and since.
On the cross, Jesus would not have survived the spear in his side?
The spear saved his life: as long as it missed vital organs it would not kill him, but it gave his followers away to have hi taken from the cross very early, without the usual process of breaking his bones. The soldier near the cross was a believer, and the whole crucifixion was planned as far as possible. Presumably the drug on a sponge stopped him reacting to the spear: he had to look completely dead before they hurried him down and treated his wounds.
Two days after the crucifixion Jesus was able to stand and walk, but did not stay for long.
For the next forty days he appeared in secret to groups of followers. At the end of that time, Luke says:
The Greek word translated as carried up is "anaphero" and can also be translated "lead up". Luke later adds these details:
Jesus was standing on the side of the Mount of Olives, a hill. If you see any photos you typically see a slope leading up to clouds. When Jesus was taken up it probably meant taken up the hill and out of sight. It would be like Moses when he left the people behind and climbed Mt Sinai to be with God.
That explains why the men in white apparel said Jesus would appear in the same way again: he came and went as he pleased, and the disciples could not follow him.
When we understand what life is, we do not fear the death of the body. When we understand what God is, we no longer need to worry. This is a great comfort and a power. For more about this comforter, see part nine of this book. For more about Jesus living inside us, see part two of this book.
If Jesus is a manifestation of the logos (logic) then this is literally true. You can have logic inside you, you can be part of logic. It is a comfort because it never fails.
Logic teaches all things, it reveals hidden truths, it helps remember things.
When Jesus left the church he was making friends with the Romans at every level. For details, see the commentary to Mark 12:14 in part six of this book. He promised in the beatitudes (Matthew 5) that the meek and poor in spirit would inherit the earth. In just three years he was on his way to achieving that.
Jesus could see that the Jewish state was on a path of self destruction (see the commentary to Mark 13 in part six). The Romans just wanted a local ruler who could keep stability and deliver wealth. Jesus' kingdom could have done that.
Had the Christians continued as Jesus started, being friends of the Romans, with a better economic system, they could have filed the vacuum when Rome finally attacked the rebels in AD 70. The Christians would have been there as a trusted alternative with the support of the common people, able to deliver peace, prosperity for Rome, and a shining example for the world to follow.
Jesus did not know exactly when the common man would rise up (see the commentary to Mark 13) but he knew that with simmering Jewish resentment of Rome it had to come within that generation. It almost happened in AD 40, after just seven years more:
"The History Of Rome" Podcast (thehistoryofrome.typepad.com), quoting Tacitus, says that AD 69 was almost the end of the empire. There were four emperors in one year, the empire was in danger of chaos, and the people were losing faith in the system. They were looking for something better.
Imagine if the Christians had listened to Christ: a Christian could have been given the governorship of Judea, and made it a shining example of how to run a kingdom. An emperor might have adopted Christianity in the first century, not AD 325: a Christianity based on economic justice, not the supernatural.
If the whole of Rome replaced tax with land rent the economic growth would have easily allowed it to absorb surrounding nations. They would have joined willingly: there would be no reason not to, as wealth and freedom were assured. Imagine an entire world based on economic growth and love of logic. The industrial revolution could have happened in the 200s, and progressed more rapidly due to the superior economic system. By the fifth century we could have reached the moon. By the twentieth century we would be colonising the galaxy.
But instead the Christians became enemies of Rome and hatred and conflict continued as before. How did that happen?
AD 70 should have been a triumph, not a disaster. Although the church taught "love thine enemy" they went out of their way to annoy people:
The gospel had everything the Jewish authorities wanted: a return to the land laws of Moses, and a way to become friends with Rome so they would allow a good Jewish governor again.
But instead most Christians became Gentile and called the law of Moses "excrement" (Philippians 3:5-8).
The gospel had everything the Romans wanted: James wanted to create a stable, wealthy kingdom of God, and pay the Romans for whatever protection, roads, stability, etc. they provided ("render unto Caesar what is Caesar's").
But instead the Christians made Rome the enemy.
This is how it happened:
The obvious source of both the move to become Gentile and the "no compromise" attitude to Rome is Paul (see part eight of this book).
But if it was not Paul it would have been somebody else: dramatic new religious movements always encourage radical new ideas. But Paul was in remote cities, and James was in Jerusalem. Plus Peter could be in Rome. Between James and Peter they should have reassured the high priest and to the emperor, helping them to see that what James wanted was good for both of them, and Paul could be persuaded to tone down his rhetoric.
But James and Peter lacked the communication skills. There is no evidence that they grasped the economic potential of the law of Moses as updated by Jesus (allowing land sales if rent is paid). Perhaps failure of communication was inevitable in those days before mass communication. How could one humble man like James run an expanding economic movement? Paul's message (just believe) was always going to be easier to spread.
Paul did all that could be done
Perhaps toward the end Jesus had realised that his message of peace was too advanced. Hence his statement that he would divide families (Matthew 10:34), his despair over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39), his frustration with his disciples (see part nine of this book) and his decision to fake his death and leave (part seven).
It is easy to see the learned Christians as the heroes, but they didn't understand economics either. Without that foundation they divided into esoteric little study groups and became irrelevant to history. It is also easy to see the Ebionites as the true followers of Jesus, living in their little communities of peace and harmony. But they did not understand the bigger message either, and what good did they do? They lived their quiet lives while the world fell around them. At least Paul, for his faults, had ambition. At least he tried to change the world. At least he preserved the gospel even if he didn't understand it. If Christianity had been left to the learned or to the Ebionites it would have been forever forgotten. Paul is a flawed hero, but a hero nonetheless.
As the Christians became more gentile this scared Jewish authorities: the state was under threat, and here was a group leading the most fervent supporters into the enemy camp! It did not help when Paul said the law was dead, and his Gentile friend Trophimus desecrated the temple (references later). As for Rome, the Christians refused to follow the basic rule of citizenship: they would not perform the token sacrifice to the Roman gods. We will now look at that in detail.
Rome needed order in the empire. They let people worship whatever gods they wish, but asked them to add Caesar to the list. This should not have been a problem. According to the Old Testament definition, any ruler is a god. So Caesar could be accepted.
But what about adding Jupiter? Jupiter was in effect just a symbol for Rome, and since Rome was obviously a ruler, it was technically accurate to say that jupiter (Rome) was a god as well.
In short, the Christians offended Rome because the Christians did not understand God. They had stumbled on the very first verse of Genesis, where "Gods" (Hebrew "eloheim") is plural.
We can see the correct attitude of compromise in the golden age of the Old Testament, before the kings ruined everything (see part five of this book for details). At the time of the judges it was normal to acknowledge Baal while worshiping YHWH. This allowed Moses' people to build a literal kingdom. Jesus wanted the same thing.
Compromise may seem shocking to Christians raised on a diet of Paul, but Judaism was never about what you believe. Moses gave no commandment to believe any particular thing other than to love logic. Moses was about what worked to make a better world. Jesus then emphasised the need to get along with neighbours and enemies. It follows that compromising with local gods, far from blasphemy, is not only possible, it is required.
Compromise with Baal??
Baal worship only became a problem when Ahab and other kings used him as an excuse to steal land. Before that, compromise with Baal is what allowed the kingdom to grow. Indeed, the Canaanite god "El" and the Jewish god "El" were one and the same, in the early days.
Roman gods were like the good, early Baal, not the bad, late Baal. Rome was an opportunity to grow the kingdom of God. It did not steal land like Ahab did: it merely asked for payment for services (protection, roads, justice, access to trade, etc.), then it allowed each province to be self governing.
So acknowledging Rome's gods should have been an easy choice: a small price to pay for building the kingdom of God. True, some will see it as sin. But as James said, if we convert others we cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
What about Daniel and not worshiping idols
Didn't Daniel teach us not to worship idols? Most scholars agree that Daniel was a second century forgery designed to encourage rebellion against the Greeks at the time. It promised that if people let themselves be thrown to the lions or burned then God would supernaturally intervene, and Daniel then gained power and prestige. But when the Christians refused to recognise Roman idols there was no supernatural help. The Christians were burnt to death, eaten by lions, and nobody saved them. Daniel is interesting as it reflects the second century BC, but it was supernatural fan fiction, and not a good example to follow.
Unfortunately the supernatural view could not compromise, and did not see the logic behind how the kingdom of God would be achieved. To the supernatural believers, God is a single being only, supernatural, and favours Christians. Clearly the Roman gods were not that god, so they rejected the Old Testament view of multiple gods. As Paul said,
To be fair to Paul, he continued his letter with a flexible attitude, that the other gods do not matter at all, so it does not really matter either way. He was speaking of whether it is a sin to eat meat that was offered to another god:
Logically, this would argue in favour of accepting Roman gods. They are not gods, and rejecting them would offend the Romans and undermine the building of the new kingdom.
But the supernatural view undermined this. Christians thought they could somehow offend Rome and yet still build their kingdom. That was not logical. That was not from God.
So the Christians rejected the physical kingdom of God, to avoid, as Paul said, offending "the conscience of him that is weak." As a result, "him that is weak" was tortured and fed to the lions. That was progress?
Christian intransigence led to persecution. But the wider Romans just wanted compromise. This is what the emperor Trajan told Pliny what to do about Christians:
Note that "the spirit of our age" is to be fair. Every effort is made not to let the Christians go free. The most detailed example of early martyrdom we have is of Polycarp, and the Romans tried everything to avoid having to find him guilty:
"Curse Christ" was not part of the rules - all he really had to do was burn something to Caesar to show he was a good citizen. "Curse Christ" reflects the frustration of the Roman authorities. Polycarp had caused them to hate Christ! But what if Polycarp had cursed Christ (which he did not need to do)? Jesus gave clear guidance on the issue:
So there is the irony. If Polycarp had cursed Christ he would be forgiven. But instead he went against logic: he claimed to support the kingdom of God, yet chose to antagonise the only people who could make it possible.
"Holy ghost" means literally "pure breath" or "pure words" with "pure" as in whole, honest, etc. Choosing to antagonise Rome and thus destroy the kingdom of God in the name of Jesus may not be quite the sin against the holy ghost, but it shows a shocking lack of perspective.
And so the text of Polycarp's martyrdom continues. The Romans begged Polycarp not to be so stupid. They asked him to merely "swear by the fortune of Caesar" or "Try to persuade the people." Again and again Polycarp refused. The authorities tried to avoid setting the wild beasts in him, saying the wild beast sport had ended for the day. But it was Polycarp who demanded to be burned alive.
Polycarp ends up looking like a blind fanatic, while the Romans simply want citizens who will make a minimal effort to respect the state that protects them.
So here is the final irony. When we remove the supernatural, the Romans are the ones following logic, they are literally following the Greek "logos". Polycarp was the "opposer" - literally, in Hebrew, a "satan". That is probably not what he intended.
Eventually Rome could take the Jewish rebellions and Christian irritations no longer, and they destroyed Jerusalem. AD 70 was a massive blow to the church. It no longer had its center in Jerusalem. Its dreams of a literal kingdom of God were in tatters.
The followers of Paul were ready with an explanation: "it was never meant to be literal, it was always a supernatural thing!" They could also provide an alternative structure, one based around bishops as leaders.
So the bishops gradually increased in power. The two alternative
approaches, James' followers and the learned, did not understand Jesus'
economic vision and faded from history.
The intellectuals debated among themselves, but lacking an understanding of economics they had no concrete answers. They became more supernatural and more irrelevant.
Eventually the bishops became so influential that after AD 325 they were adopted as the official religion of the Roman empire.
In the AD 340s the learned writings were banned. The remaining learned were absorbed into the church, and after a series of councils any memory of God as logic was forgotten: God was now officially three supernatural beings, defined by very precise wording, and no more debate was allowed.
The economic kingdom of God was never built. Jesus' economic teachings were too far ahead of their time. Nobody understood how they would work, so they assumed it was all supernatural, and did not have to understand it at all. This suited the bishops who found that Paul's theology supported a hierarchical church.
The bishops' supporters (notably Irenaeus) had began to teach that Paul was just as important as Peter, and that both had founded the church in Rome and declared its bishop to be head of the church. Despite the fact that when the church in Rome was founded James was still leading the church from Jerusalem.
Part eight of this book looks at the teachings of Paul. Part nine looks at the history of Peter and Paul together.
What happened to Jesus after his crucifixion? Many traditions hint that he travelled to the east. For example, Eusebius reports that the Gospel of Matthew was used by an apostle in the east before the date that it appeared in the west. He may have meant a pre-Matthew source written in India called the Logia. If so, this would explain why at least three of the western gospels were composed so many years after the crucifixion: Jesus was still out there somewhere, so it was too soon to write his definitive biography.
What happens next is highly uncertain, and all we can do is pick up clues and wonder if they have a germ of truth.
There are many legends indicating that Jesus traveled to India, and perhaps around the Roman empire first. These legends are summarized by James W. Deardorff in Survival of the Crucifixion: Traditions of Jesus (www.tjresearch.info/legends.htm). He reports widespread and credible traditions that Jesus, after surviving the crucifixion, traveled with his mother and a disciple called Thomas to the east.
Jesus said that he would always be with his disciples. He taught that spirits can move between bodies, and spirit means ideas. So anybody with the spirit of Jesus is a Christian, that is, they share the identity of Christ. This is not some kind of secondary definition of identity, this is not some weak excuse because the real person is dead. The ideas are the real person. If somebody thinks and acts like Christ then they are Christ, and if there is more than one then we call them a Christian. Of course, many more people claim to be Christian than are, but every would-be Christian knows that.
Jesus did so much in just three years when in Judea that his next sixty years could easily have enough to fill two identities.
People with the spirit of Jesus
Regarding the physical Jesus, obviously he would change his name because he was officially dead. Legend suggests at least two people who might be aliases of Jesus: Yuz Asaf when in the near east, and Apollonius of Tyana when in the Roman world.
Statistically it is probably unlikely that they were physically Jesus. Some even argue that Yuz Asaf never existed. But they represent the ideas of Jesus, and were thus Jesus in the way that matters; in the way that Jesus said, and in the same way that John the Baptist was Elijah (see part two of this book).
Critics may complain that Appolonius did not represent Jesus to the same extent as, as, say, the vision of Jesus in Revelation. But Revelation seems to contradict what Jesus said about Rome (see commentary to Mark 12:14,17). What matters is not the physical body or the belief of the church, but the logic of the ideas.
Where did Jesus go after the final mount of Olives meeting? A site close to Damascus is called "the place where Jesus lived." He may have stayed there for a year or so, and finally broke cover when he appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, asking "why do you persecute me?" For a commentary on this and other parts of the book of Acts, see part nine of this book.
If we take Yuz Asaf as a name or symbol for Jesus, then he traveled with someone called Mary and with Thomas (Judas-Thomas?). They went to Nisibis (Nasibain) near Edessa (now Urfa in Turkey, near the Syrian border). Jesus preached to the king, who wanted to be cured of an illness. Jesus had to leave quickly because of hostility that had arisen against them there.
Other legends say that Mary the mother of Jesus ended up in southern France and then Britain. So the Mary who went with Jesus/Yuz could have been Mary Magdalene, then his wife. Or of course one or both legends could be in error.
Yuz then journeyed East through Iran. He is said to have preached a form of reincarnation, which is one way to describe Jesus' views on the nature of spirit (see part two of this book.) He then continued east, to northern Afghanistan.
The Ahmadiyya Movement in Afghanistan claims that Jesus having escaped the cross, came east with his mother Mary, performed seeming miracles, and eventually died a natural death in Kashmir. He is said to have preached during the reign of King Shalivahan (some time between AD 39 and 50). As Jawarhar Nehru wrote in 1932,
Ruins 15 miles west of Agra had an inscription of a saying attributed to Jesus: The world is a bridge; pass over it but build no house upon it. This is not in the gospels, but is in keeping with Jesus' view of the human spirit.
The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (an early important Buddhist teacher) is another parallel for Jesus in India at this time. He was known for his Christ-like teaching, his miracles, a mark on his hand (from the crucifixion?) and he is sometimes called the creator of the world.
Some scholars ague that "Yuz Asaf" is a result of a mistranslation:
Critics also note that the dates do not match perfectly, though this is to be expected in fragmentary evidence from long ago. As for Lang's argument, all arguments both for and against are speculative. For example, Lang notes that Yuzasaf sounds a little like Bhdhasaf. This sounds convincing until we remember that coincidences are far more common than we imagine. For example, Stalin means "man of steel": does this mean the Russian leader never existed, and was simply a version of the famous comic book hero? Similarly "Lenin" and "Trostky" were pseudonyms (for Vladimir Ulynanov and Lev Bronstein). Does this mean they never existed? Naturally, supporters of the Yuz theory are not convinced:
The bottom line is that we cannot know with certainty what happened to Jesus at any time. The only thing we can know is the logic (or otherwise) of the words that have come down to us.
According to the logic of Jesus' words, if any ideas represent Jesus, even if they are centuries later, then yes, they are Jesus. (See part two of this book.)
There are many parallels between Jesus and the philosopher Apollonius, who appeared when Jesus disappeared, and lived to be around 85 years old. Some have compared him to Paul, based on their official birthplace in Asia, but if Apollonius was really Jesus that birthplace would just be to explain why he was first seen to the north of Israel, travelling in the Roman empire, and on his way along the Fertile Crescent to India.
If Jesus was also Apollonius then this is a very happy ending to the story. Apollonius seems to have lived a relaxed life, visiting interesting places and enjoying the company of interesting people, while teaching and advising along the way. He often laughed.
Apollonius was called a Pythagorean, a connection that the present author (as a fan of Pythagoras) finds very pleasing. Like Pythagoras, he loved logic and wanted to create an ideal society. Apollonius promoted learning above wealth, and shares the same (Pythagorean) view of the afterlife that Jesus and Yuz Asaf held, that spirits are not fixed in one body forever.
Apollonius also brings us back to the topic of economics. He appears to promote the three economic rules identified in this book: (1) we own what we create, (2) we should not benefit over others due to luck, and (3) unearned wealth should be shared. (Perhaps Yuz did as well, but his teachings are only known through scattered fragments. )
In book one of Philostratus' Life of Apollonius (chapters 23 and 35) he helps a group who find themselves landless. To Apollonius, everyone deserves enough land to live on: this is a result of the third rule, that unearned wealth should be shared equally. At the end of book one Apollonius, like Jesus, argue for friendship with Rome.
In book two (chapter 39) a king asks Apollonius' advice on a tricky problem (see Philostratus' The Life of Apollonius 2:39): a man had sold land to another man, and then it was discovered that the land contained buried treasure. The first man would certainly not have sold the land if he had known, so who should get the treasure? Apollonius first said that on first glance there was no evidence that either man particularly deserved the treasure (Jesus' first law: you earn what you get). He then observed that people of good character should have enough to live on (the third law: excess wealth is shared). He finally gave his judgment that the king should examine the character of the two litigants and decide who best deserved a windfall from the gods. This is the first and second law: you should get what you deserve, and not profit simply from luck.
While book two establishes the first rule (we should get what we earn), book four begins with urging people to study and think more, and then (4:2-3) includes a discussion of the third rule: when all else is equal we should share what we have. But lest anybody should think he is purely communist, he then (in 4:8) praises the division of labour and virtues of vigorous competition. These are implied by the first rule: if we own what we create then by doing something better than another person we deserve more. Adam Smith said the same thing many centuries later.
The purpose of this part of the book is to show that Jesus is still here. He has not gone away. His original body has gone, but that is unimportant. A person's consciousness is his ideas. Those ideas exist in every person who embraces his message. Jesus lives on.
In the same way, we can get ideas direct from God: direct from logic.
It is therefore absurd to think we need a priesthood or holy text. Yes, we need people and we need writing. People and writing spread the message. But they are not the message. They are just people and writing. People and writing are sometimes wrong. Only God (logic) is always right by definition.
Jesus is the spirit of sound economics, respect for the past, and treating people as equals. In other words, he is a practical help, you have a shared history, and he cares for you. In other words, he is your friend.
Jesus is defined by this spirit, so anybody who shares that spirit has Jesus as part of her or him. As John said, "he is in God, and God is in him." Or as Jesus said, "I will dwell in him and make my abode in him."
Any true friend will be like this: their words and actions will make things better. They share a past with you (even if you don't realise it). They care for you as their equal. The more that a person is a friend then the more they are like Jesus, even if they don't realise it.
So every true friend is Jesus. So Jesus is your friends.
The whole purpose of this book, particularly parts five and six, is to show that Jesus taught sound economics. As such, he can save the world. Sound economics makes a nation stronger. Eventually the strong tend to replace the weak (by definition). So eventually Jesus will prevail: eventually he will save the world. It may be in the lifetime of our body, or it may be in the longer lifetime of our true selves, our ideas and genes. In other words, Jesus saves, whether in this life or the next.
In summary, Jesus saves. Not in any supernatural way, but in the real world. We have his gospel, we have his presence (if we have friends), and if we have any questions we always have direct access to God (logic).
But people do not always understand Jesus. And what we do not understand, we try to twist into what we do understand.
The next part of this book shows how his followers tried to twist his words into something more familiar: into the old hierarchical, confrontational, ignorance based way of doing things. They silenced the voices of reason. Gradually, over a period of three centuries, the very concept of questioning God was declared a sin: we were to ask the hierarchy instead. And the result was intellectual and economic decline.
part eight: Paul, James and Thomas